The Institute for Aerospace Research (IAR) at Canada's National Research Council (NRC) has flown a complete flight in its Bell 205 helicopter using only a helmet-mounted Enhanced Synthetic Vision Systems (ESVS), to create a totally artificial environment. The effect is that of turning "zero-zero" meteorological conditions into what the NRC calls "Virtual VMS" or daytime visual conditions.

The flight was the culmination of a multi-year collaboration between the Canadian Department of National Defense, NRC, CAE Electronics, CMC Electronics (formerly BAE Systems and Canadian Marconi) and numerous academic institutions.

The flight shows that the technology has a promising future for helicopter search and rescue missions, as well as for air transport operations.


Sion Jennings, the NRC team leader and lead engineer, says that in most instances the pilots were able to navigate the aircraft to within 2m (6.5ft) of the desired location using only artificial terrain, sensor and navigation inputs.

"The helmet-mounted graphics are seen as superior to head-up displays (HUDs) and panel-mounted graphics," says Jennings. "The ESVS is able to display the virtual terrain well to the sides of the aircraft, not just straight ahead. The helmet-mounted display has a unique ‘look-around' capability."

The eventual ESVS will be based on four advanced technologies - the navigation systems, the helmet-mounted display, the image-generation system and the terrain database. "We see the potential for a practical and affordable product within five years," Jennings says.

As well as in-flight, the system technology has potential applications in transport aircraft on the tarmac, using infrared sensors and millimetre-wave radar to see aircraft and obstacles on the runway in zero-visibility conditions.

Source: Flight Daily News