DARPA launches Sandblaster helicopter avionics program

By John Keller

ARLINGTON, Va. - Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are launching a helicopter avionics program called Sandblaster to help pilots fly safely in zero-visibility conditions such as dust, fog, rain, and snow.

DARPA released a broad agency announcement (BAA) last month (BAA06-45) that asks the defense and aerospace industry for ideas on rapidly developing affordable sensor and visualization display systems to improve helicopter landing capability particularly in the world’s desert areas where choking dust clouds are common.

Sandblaster is a high-priority effort to develop and demonstrate ways for helicopters to land safely in brownout as well as other degraded visual environments (DVEs) where the visibility is temporarily as low as zero. DARPA officials are particularly interested in electronic and optoelectronic pilot aids to help during operations in unimproved landing zones where pilots have limited knowledge of the terrain.

In charge of the program are officials of the DARPA Strategic Technology Office (STO). The point of contact is Dr. Reggie Brothers, whose e-mail for the program is BAA06-45@darpa.mil. The program’s Web site is www.darpa.mil/ato/solicit/Sandblaster/index.htm.


Helicopters like the UH-60 shown above can stir up blinding dust clouds when landing or taking off. The Sandblaster program seeks to keep pilots safe in zero-visibility conditions.
Click here to enlarge image

The brownout phenomenon, which can cause deadly accidents during helicopter desert landings and takeoffs, happens when the helicopter’s main-rotor downwash stirs up intense, blinding dust clouds during flight near the ground. Brownout can cause helicopter pilots suddenly to lose all visual cues, which can lead to aircraft and ground obstacle collisions, rollover due to sloped and uneven terrain, and other catastrophes.

DARPA officials say Sandblaster must be self-contained, and include necessary sensors, instruments, and displays to provide landing guidance to the pilot. Equipment must be compatible with existing military helicopters like the UH-60 Black Hawk.

Sandblaster, at a minimum, must provide brownout landing capability in zero/zero-visibility conditions with warning of lateral, fore, and aft drift; ground obstacles; sloping/uneven terrain in the landing zone that could induce dynamic rollover; and of potential collisions with other nearby aircraft and buildings.

Landing guidance will come from conventional or modified instrumentation, new human-factored cognitive primary functional displays, or a combination of both.

The first systems developed specifically must be configurable to integrate with MH/UH-60 A/L/M-model Black Hawk helicopters. The system must be able to provide aircraft rate of descent; absolute height above the ground with accuracy goal of one foot when below 50 feet altitude; and drift velocity with accuracy goal of 1 knot and drift direction accuracy goal of 1 degree.

DARPA experts will assess Sandblaster system effectiveness in a government-specified flight simulator such as the NASA Ames Vertical Motion Simulator or the U.S. Army JUH-60A RASCAL test bed, where they will measure task performance time, sink rate at touchdown, lateral velocity at touchdown (ideally zero), forward velocity at touchdown (ideally minimal), and course/altitude profile deviation.

Novel approaches to using cognitive and physiological assessment of pilot workload may be included in the system evaluation to increase our understanding of pilot reactions to the landing environment, DARPA officials say.

More information about the Sandblaster program and DARPA’s industry solicitation is available online at www.fbodaily.com/archive/2006/09-September/08-Sep-2006/FBO-01135646.htm.


Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:


  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles


Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:


  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

Flexible Printed Circuit Board

Flexible Printed Circuit Boards are one of the most popular types of circuit boards used in a var...

Rigid Printed Circuit Boards

Rigid printed circuit boards can only meet diverse industrial applications if the best materials ...

Printed Circuit Board Assembly

Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCB ASSY) is as critical a process as circuit board manufacturing.

UniSlide® Stages

UniSlide Assemblies deliver precise movement in one, two or three dimensions with linear motion. ...

Velmex VXM™ Motor Controller

Velmex VXM Controller Systems are integral components of the power systems that efficiently drive...

Velmex XSlide™ Stages

The Velmex XSlide Assembly is a compact positioning stage highly suitable for high performance in...

BiSlide® Stages

Velmex manual or motorized BiSlide positioning stage's modular design makes it highly configurabl...

Video Borescope ORION

Ø 4mm (0.16”) to 10mm (0.44”)Working Lengths: up to 30 meters (98')3.5” color LCD display, with 7...

Rigid Video Borescope HERON-A with Tip Articulation

CMOS Camera Chip: 450,000 pixels 340° Rotation of the Probe Articulating Tip (180˚in each directi...

Micro Borescope Ultra Thin

German made, it is the best choice for extremely small inspection areas, with diameters as small ...

Related Companies

Uniforce Sales and Engineering

Provides solutions to machine vision and image acquisition in many applications, including in the fields of medical, ...

A-FLEX

Provides customized Printed Circuit Board fabrication in California. The entire process can be customized according t...

Velmex Inc

Manufactures linear and rotary motion-control positioning equipment for scientific, research, photonics, machining an...

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc

GA-ASI is a leading manufacturer of proven, reliable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-opt...

TASC Technical & Assembly Services Corporation Electronic Equipment Manufacturing

Electronic Manufacturing sub-contractor. Circuit Board assembly, Cable Assembly, Wire Harness Assembly, Box Build Ass...

BellowsTech LLC

Develops, designs and manufactures metal bellows using edge welded bellows technology. Expertise in design, machining...

Medit Inc

Supplies remote visual inspection devices. The company is one of the important players in the industry, serving clien...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...

HC Controls Inc

Specialists in design, installation, commissioning, calibration, training and support services to aero engine test fa...

DDC-I Inc

Offers complete solutions for embedded software developers with a focus on mission- and safety-critical applications....
Wire News provided by   

Press Releases

Model INCX-4001

The INCX-4001 consists of a high quality audio transceiver specifically designed to implement a complete fiber optic intercom.

Model PS-1210

The PS-1210 is a 1A, 12VDC stand-alone or rack mountable non-switcher (no RF noise) power supply.

Model OS-3121

Optical switches are utilized to disconnect, bypass and reroute fiber optic communications. All of these optical switches are purely optical path, there is no optical to e...

Webcasts

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

All Access Sponsors


Mil & Aero Magazine

July 2015
Volume 26, Issue 7
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE