BAE Systems has derived a military helicopter synthetic vision and obstacle avoidance system from a fixed-wing solution used by US Air Force fixed-wing military transports. Known as Octas - obstacle, cable and terrain avoidance system - it can provide helicopter pilots with synthetic vision on head-down or helmet-mounted displays (HMD), writes David Learmount.

BAE's Los Angeles-based head of integrated solutions Tom Herring says: "Helicopters are susceptible to accidents due to loss of visual awareness caused by darkness or the presence of rain, dust, smoke and other obscurants. Octas is designed to help our warfighters ease their workload and increase safety and effectiveness." The system combines a radar cable detector with BAE's Terprom terrain profile mapping system, Herring says.

BAE is not looking at the civil helicopter market for the product at present, Herring says, with the "baseline" Octas selling at a little less than $100,000 per aircraft. The baseline model "will overcome the majority of situational awareness challenges helicopter pilots face", including wires and cables, with three-dimensional visual information. Improved capabilities for special forces operations could include 94GHz imaging radar that overcomes brownout on landing in sandy or dusty conditions; Ladar (laser radar) to improve cable detection; and infrared sensors to provide better images in clear or hazy conditions.

The system can feed the three-dimensional imagery into a 360° HMD derived from the display developed for the Eurofighter Typhoon, and active control stick technology provides pilot feedback through dynamically variable tactile cues.

Source: Flight International