BAE Systems is preparing a civil helicopter all-weather cable and obstacle detection system (ODS) based on a system designed for military rotary wing operations that it has just finished testing successfully. The complete system will weigh about 8kg (20lb), but BAE has not yet ventured a price for the civil version.

The ODS detects cables and other obstacles using low-probability-of-intercept, low-probability-of-detection (LPI/LPD) radar technology to detect uncharted obstacles plus passive terrain avoidance backed up by radar altimetry with an accuracy of 2% of altitude below 5,000ft. BAE has just performed the evaluation of the military version in Arlington, Texas, using Bell Helicopter’s new 430 test aircraft. Vince Tobin, program director at Bell Helicopter comments: “Our pilots are extremely impressed with the operation of the system,” adding that “Bell Helicopter is anxious to support the completion of the development and offer this important capability to our customers.”

BAE says: “Cables and obstacles are common causes of helicopter accidents. BAE Systems is the first company to demonstrate a lightweight, cost-effective all weather cable detection system.” Pilots would be provided with either head-down or head-up displays depicting obstacles and terrain.

BAE explains its system is originally derived from its equipment used on fixed-wing US Air Force military transports. Known as OCTAS - obstacle, cable and terrain avoidance system – the rotary wing military version can provide helicopter pilots with synthetic vision on head-down or helmet-mounted displays (HMD), but the company recognised the $100,000 cost per military unit would be unrealistic in the civil market.

Source: Flight International