Military helicopter operations are often constrained by environmental conditions including low light levels and poor
weather. Recent operational experience has also shown the difficulty presented by certain terrain when operating at low
altitude by day and night. For example, poor visual cues when flying over featureless terrain with low scene contrast, or
obscuration of vision caused by wind blown and re-circulated dust at low level (brown out). These types of conditions
can result in loss of spatial awareness and loss of precise control of the aircraft. Atmospheric obscurants such as fog,
cloud, rain and snow can similarly lead to hazardous situations. Day Night All Weather (DNAW) systems applied
research, sponsored by UK MOD, has developed a systematic, human centred approach, to understanding and
developing pilotage display systems for challenging environments. A prototype DNAW system has been developed
using an incremental flight test programme, leading to the flight assessment of a fully integrated pilotage display
solution, trial HAWKOWL, installed in a Sea King helicopter. The system comprises several sub-systems including; a
multi-spectral sensor suite, image processing and fusion; head down and head-tracked Display Night Vision Goggles;
onboard mission planning and route generation; precision navigation; dynamic flight path guidance; and conformal, task
dependent, symbology. A variety of qualitative and quantitative assessment techniques have been developed and applied
to determine the performance of the system and the capability it provides. This paper describes the approach taken in the
design, implementation and assessment of the system and identifies key results from the flight trial.
The Crew Systems Group at QinetiQ Farnborough, formerly part of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), have recently conducted development and flight evaluations of two monocular display systems that provided dynamic symbology for the pilot. The systems were the Pilkington Optronics (now Thales) Guardian monocular Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) used for daytime operations and the QinetiQ Display Night Vision Goggles (DNVGs) used at night. Test flights of the two systems were performed in a modified Jaguar T2B combat aircraft, that was based at the QinetiQ Boscombe Down research facility. Good performance was obtained from each system with both producing clear, legible symbology. During day and night Air to Ground (A-G) sorties both the Guardian and the DNVGs were used for simulated attacks and reconnaissance tasks on a variety of operationally realistic targets. In addition the Guardian HMD was used with an ASRAAM in the day Air to Air (A-A) environment to provide high off-boresight capability. The results from the test program have validated a range of significant capability enhancements offered by either a HMD or a DNVG, and have provided a significant increase in the technical and operational understanding of fast-jet helmet display systems.
The Defence Evaluation Research Agency carried out an airborne demonstration and evaluation of a fast-jet Visually Coupled System (VCS) installed in ZD902, the Tornado Integrated Avionics Research Aircraft for the UK MOD. The installed VCS used a Head Steered Forward Looking Infra-Red (HSFLIR) sensor and a Head Tracking system to provide the pilot with an image of the outside world projected onto a Binocular Helmet Mounted Display. In addition to the sensor image, information such as aircraft altitude, attitude, and airspeed were also presented to the pilot through the HMD to eliminate the need to look inside the cockpit for critical flight data. The aim of the VIVIAN trial was to demonstrate by day and night the benefits of a fast-jet integrated HSFLIR and HMD as an aid to low level flight, navigation, target acquisition, take-off and landing. The outcome of this flight test program was very encouraging and, although testing has identified that improvements are necessary, in particular to HSFLIR image quality, Auto Gain Control performance, helmet fit and symbology design, test aircrew endorse the acceptability of a VCS.