Merging two cutting-edge technologies, Lockheed Martin flew its Pilotage Distributed Aperture Sensor (PDAS) system aboard a Bell V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft for the first time last month. The multi-functional sensor system collects high-resolution images from around the aircraft, providing the flight crew with a 360-degree view of the exterior through special helmets and displays.

One of the most valuable assets in combat is situational awareness. Being able to clearly see and understand what is going on in a hostile situation can literally mean the difference between life and death. For pilots and even passengers aboard rotorcraft like the Valor that are designed to go quickly into harm's way at low altitude, this is doubly true.

According to Lockheed, the PDAS was developed specifically for US Army rotorcraft and uses six infrared sensors distributed around the airframe that collect and generate real-time imagery through an open-architecture processor that is then fed to the craft's crew through their helmets and cockpit displays. This not only gives them an all-around view, but also a scene and point and multi-object tracking capability, along with automatic search and track functions to identify and follow targets on the ground.

The March flights included testing the ability of the PDAS to simultaneously feed images to multiple independent displays under flight conditions. The system can currently provide data to two users, but will soon be able to support up to six, allowing mission commanders on the ground and crews in other aircraft to receive imagery and tactical information.

The PDAS has already been flight tested on a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

"Conducting PDAS flight tests on the V-280 is an exciting first step toward delivering a level of situational awareness unavailable on today's Army rotorcraft," says Rita Flaherty, strategy & business development vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "With its embedded, multi-functional sensors, PDAS is the ideal foundation for an integrated survivability suite that will enable Army aircrews to own any environment and universally detect and defeat incoming threats."