Flight tests of a fused radar and infrared imaging system designed to enable military transports to land in zero visibility are under way in California. The autonomous approach and landing capability (AALC) system has been developed by BAE Systems for the US Air Force Research Laboratory.
Flight tests of the system on a Lockheed Martin C-130H began at Edwards AFB on 6 December, with the goal of demonstrating hand-flown zero-visibility landings by year-end, says Darroll McAlinden, BAE principal systems engineer.
© BAE Systems
The system fuses imagery from a 94GHz millimetre-wave radar and a 1-5µm forward-looking infrared sensor, superimposes flight symbology and presents the result on dual head-up displays. A head-down display provides a plan view of the radar data to help pilots determine the distance to obstacles visible in the HUD.
For each part of the displayed scene, "the system looks at the [radar and infrared] images, determines which has the most detail and chooses that", says McAlinden. The two sensors offer complementary weather penetration characteristics. "If fog obscures FLIR in the distance, then radar will predominate," he adds.
BAE has developed special high-brightness HUDs for the AALC programme, using digital-light-engine projectors to enable the fused imagery to be viewed against a bright background, he says. The radar is installed above the nose, forward of the cockpit, and the FLIR is mounted on the side of the forward fuselage.
McAlinden says BAE is working on the conceptual design of a production system in response to operator interest in equipping military transports to land in zero visibility.
Source: Flight International