Lidar, computer simulation blend in avionics to help helicopter pilots land safely in dust

By John Keller

OTTAWA – Helicopter avionics specialists at two Canadian aerospace companies are blending lidar technology and computer simulation to create a virtual environment for aircraft avionics to enable pilots to land safely in zero-visibility dust, smoke, and fog–especially at night.

Lidar stands for light direction and ranging, and uses infrared laser beams as primary sensors for image capture of the surrounding area. This technology also is referred to as ladar, which is short for laser radar. Neptec’s military avionics technology is called OPAL, which is short for obscurant-penetrating autosynchronous lidar.

A U.S. Army UH-1 helicopter lands at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., to demonstrate how laser radar can penetrate zero-visibility conditions to help helicopter pilots land in dust.
Click here to enlarge image

Engineers at the Neptec Design Group in Ottawa and CAE in Montreal are using military laser technology to create imagery of visually obscured areas, which they overlay with terrain database information designed for military training and simulation to create an enhanced, computer-generated out-the-window view that is updated in real time to help helicopter pilots land where dust, smoke, fog, or other obscurants blot out the pilot’s view of the outside.

“Landing helicopters in brown-out conditions is the major application for this technology,” explains Neptec President Dr. Ian Christie. “This could help alleviate operational constraints where pilots can’t land in dusty areas at night. Lidar sees as well at night as it does during the day.”

CAE and Neptec demonstrated the OPAL sensor integrated into the CAE Augmented Visionics System (AVS) at the Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz. when they penetrated dust clouds generated by a UH-1 test helicopter. The system helped pilots see through brownout conditions opaque to the human eye to differentiate between rocks, bushes, sloping terrain, utility poles, ground vehicles, and wires at distances greater than 200 meters.

This CAE computer simulation helps illustrate the challenges of landing helicopters in extremely dusty conditions.
Click here to enlarge image

“Our job is to have a very efficient sensor system for the CAE AVS with updates to the database that it uses to create the simulated environment,” Neptec’s Christie explains. “Pilots need to find out how different the landing zone is from what the system thinks it is. Combine the sensor and simulation and you have a very accurate synthetic environment.”

The CAE AVS combines OPAL with other sensors such as forward-looking infrared (FLIR). Sensor information blends with the CAE-developed common database (CDB), originally developed for U.S. Special Operations Command.

Further development of the AVS technology is part of CAE’s Project Falcon research and development to expand modeling and simulation technologies and develop new applications. Visit Neptec online at, or CAE at

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

Custom and OEM Camera Design

We provide custom designs for both modifications to existing systems and development of new produ...

Micro-D Connectors

Highly rugged and compact designs in shell styles from 9 to 51 contacts. The Micro-D connectors i...

Omnetics Nano-D Bi-Lobe® Latching Connectors

Bi-Lobe® connectors utilize rugged and reliable flex pin contact system. Spaced on 25 mil (.64mm)...

Hybrid Micro-D Connectors

Omnetics high reliability Micro-D connectors are available withmixed power/signal contact layouts...

Nano-D Bi-Lobes® Connectors Dual Row Horizontal SMT (Type AA)

Horizontal SMT Bi-Lobe® nanos offer an extremely low profile package that is well suited to pick ...

Nano-D BiLobe® Connectors -(COTS)

Sizes are 9, 15, 21, 25, 31, 37 , 51 & 65 pin, at .025 Mil. Pitch(Currently Available), mating pi...

Latching Micro-D Connectors

Omnetics high reliability Micro-D connectors are available with Quick Latch System. For applicati...

XTend7103 | COM Express® Carrier for COM Express® Type 10 Mezzanine Modules

The XTend7103 is a COM Express® carrier card designed to provide a low-cost and compact platform ...

XPedite7575 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7575 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

XPort6173 | 3U VPX Carrier for Two 2.5 in. Solid-State Drives (SSDs)

The XPort6173 supports two, standard, 2.5 in. Solid-State Drives (SSDs) in a single 0.8 in. or 1....

Related Companies

Interface Displays & Controls Inc

Certified ISO-9001/AS9100, veteran-owned, small business. Interface specializes in designing, reverse-engineering and...

Southwest Antennas

Designs and manufactures high-performance RF and Microwave antennas and accessories designed for today’s communicatio...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

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

Omnetics Connector Corp

Omnetics Connector Corporation – Micro and Nano Connectors and Interconnect Systems for Military & Aerospa...

United Electronic Industries Inc

UEI is a leader in the PC/Ethernet data acquisition and control, Data Logger/Recorder and Programmable Automation Con...

GE Aviation Systems

Designs and manufactures high reliability microelectronics for aerospace and military applications. Thick film hybrid...

Cobham AvComm (formerly Aeroflex Test Solutions)

Is a global leader in avionics, communications, and synthetic test, monitoring, and control for commercial, governmen...

Astronics Ballard Technology

Manufactures avionics databus interfaces, embedded computers, and software for aerospace, military and commercial use...

KAMAKA Electronic Bauelemente Vertriebs GmbH

One of the leading Hi-Rel suppliers in Central Europe for more than 23 years. The quality of our products and the tec...

Henniker Plasma

Plasma Treatment Equipment - Plasma Cleaners, Plasma Etchers, Plasma Coating & Plasma Surface ModificationWe are the ...


The Intel Xeon-D processor and its role in high-performance embedded computing (HPEC)

The rugged Intel Xeon-D server-class multicore microprocessor is set to revolutionize high-performance embedded computing. By itself, the processor will bring unprecedented power to embedded computing applic...

Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

Press Releases


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

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

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

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

Embedded Computing Report

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

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles