Technology

With this helmet, helicopter pilots see clearly even in poor visibility

Fog, snow storm, gusts of wind: This is the horror for helicopter pilots. Helmet sight guarantees a safe flight even when bad weather comes from Munich.

When visibility is only for a few hundred meters helicopters may not start, too much is the danger that the pilot realizes too late a construction crane, a power line or a mountain. A stumbling block for rescue missions.

pilots see clearly even in poor
Look through the data glasses. He sees the outlines of ground and buildings. Flight data such as altitude and speed are also displayed. Photo: TUM

Engineers of the Technical University of Munich want to change that. You develop a data mask, which displays information in the field of vision of the pilot, about the ground or outlines of mountains and houses. You speaking of augmented reality, so extended reality, a kind of mixture of real world and recorded information.

On the helicopter is a so-called light detection and ranging (LIDAR) system installed, which uses Google for autonomous cars. It emits radiation in the micrometer range, sensors catch the waves reflected from obstacles.

A software feeds the data glasses with this information.

In this way, he sees not only what he can see with the naked eye, but also the digital outlines of landscape and obstacles. Flight data such as speed, altitude, location and course can show. The projections fit thanks to a head-tracking system even on the direction of the pilot.

Test in the Flight Simulator
Test in the Flight Simulator. Researchers on support from the industry are dependent on for trial use in real helicopters. She have indicated already keen interest. Photo: TUM

16 professional pilots have tested the helmet vision

But pilots will actually accept the system? The researchers conducted a study to answer this question. 16 professional helicopter pilots have taken part. You could test the head-mounted display in Simulator flights. The researchers recorded the flights and then interviewed the pilots after stress symptoms.

The result: When visibility the pilots benefited from below 800 m measurable by a terrain and flight data. They flew not only faster and more secure, but felt the stakes also mentally and physically less tiring. Clearly the benefits of low visibility of only 100 m came to bear.

“The new technology can reduce the risk in helicopter operations,” says researcher Franz Viertler. “The main problem is poor visibility through clouds or snow or dust that will be stirred up during takeoff and landing. Against the whiteout or brownout, augmented reality can help.”

Engineers are dependent on support from the industry

To practical application will take yet some time. The next step: Testing in the real helicopter. But scientists need support. “We can not test it with our Simulator” says Vaidya. It was dependent on the support of the industry. She have signaled already keen interest.