A multi-sensor system designed to enable helicopters to land safely in the zero visibility conditions created by the sand and dust of Iraq and Afghanistan will be tested this year by the US Army and Air Force.
The technology, developed by BAE Systems, fuses information from a millimetre wave radar, infrared and low-light television to produce the best available image in zero visibility conditions, including dust, fog and snow.
The sheer size of the military operation in Iraq has brought the issue of landing in deserts into the forefront of the US Army’s thinking, said John Husaim, director of the rotary wing integrated product team at BAE Systems Platform Solutions. ‘The issue is the last 50ft of the approach, where pilots lose all visual references. This can lead to loss of aircraft and/or pilots,’ he said.
The system, called Radar Enhanced Visual System (Revs), can also be used to help fixed wing aircraft land in fog or darkness. The fused image created by the sensors can be displayed on a head-up or helmet-mounted display, and combined with BAE’s fly-by-wire flight control technology to produce a safe flight plan.
It can also provide pilots with tactile cues when action is needed to adjust elements such as rotor speed, engine conditions or altitude, to prevent the aircraft straying outside its flight envelope.
A digital database of the latest satellite images, named Terprom, can be used to provide updateable information on the local terrain.
Some elements of the system have already been demonstrated on a C-130 transport aircraft, where it was tested to near zero visibility conditions. It is now being fitted to a C-17 transport aircraft, and in May this year will be tested on a CH-47 helicopter. The technology could be ready for military operation by the end of 2005, said Husaim.
BAE will also, with the US Army, investigate the potential of the technology in UAVs.