The US Army will install radar-powered enhanced vision systems on 10 Sikorsky UH-60L Black Hawks for a combat trial in Afghanistan, according to radar supplier Sierra Nevada.
Even in war zones, most helicopter crashes are still caused by collisions with small obstacles, such as cables, wires and poles, said Tim Owings, Sierra Nevada's vice-president of strategic planning.
The army wants to know if a new generation of radars can help pilots see potential hazards, especially in the dark, bad weather or dust clouds that cause so-called "brown-out" conditions.
Sierra Nevada's new product - the helicopter autonomous landing system (HALS) - was selected for the army's demonstration, said Jennifer Jensen, the company's vice-president of business development.
HALS is currently sized as a 45kg (99lb) package that includes a 94GHz radar, Jensen said. The radar creates a three-dimensional image rendering of the terrain. The image is presented on a cockpit display, overlaid onto a synthetic vision map of the ground.
HALS also allows the pilot to take-off and land autonomously when unable to see, while avoiding obstacles as small as wires and cables.
Sierra Nevada also plans to offer a smaller version of HALS as the basis for a sense and avoid system for unmanned air vehicles.
Commercial operators, including FedEx, Gulfstream and UPS, have also expressed interest in HALS, Jensen said.