Army still exploring synthetic vision technology

By John Mchale

Posted by John McHale
During interviews for a story I was writing on Army helicopter avionics for our February issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics the topic of synthetic vision came up while speaking with Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix. Both companies are designing synthetic vision systems for commercial aviation.

I didn't use the synthetic vision part in the feature as it is not a requirement for any current Army rotorcraft avionics upgrades , but the Army is exploring the technology according to Rockwell Collins and Honeywell.

For more on Army helicopter avionics upgrades read "Army looks to helicopter avionics upgrades and technology insertion in the absence of new rotorcraft programs ."

"We are working on synthetic vision technology" with the Army and how that could be integrated into the Common Avionics Architecture System (CASS) program, says Boe Svatek, programs manager for advanced rotorcraft programs at Rockwell Collins,

For more on the CAAS program read "Army uses open-systems standards for helicopter avionics ."

Due to the current funding environment, it is hard for the Army to justify an upgrade to synthetic vision right now, he says.

Rockwell Collins engineers are looking to enhance the image resolution for helicopter operations, Svatek says.

"What's been done in synthetic vision to date has been for fixed wing aircraft," Svatek says. "We want to make it more effective for rotorcraft."

Synthetic vision is still a little bit ahead of its time, he adds.

Honeywell's synthetic vision technology was used in a DARPA program called Sandblaster with Sikorsky in stratford, Conn., as the prime contractor, says Lonny Rakes, director of business development for U.S. Army programs at Honeywell. The system took sensor information from a millimeter wave sensor from Sierra Nevada in Sparks, Nev., and integrated it with a synthetic terrain view, he adds.

The sensor data blended with the synthetic vision enabled pilots to have a view outside the cockpit in degraded visual environments such as those caused by sand or dust, Rakes says.

Sandblaster was completed successfully and Honeywell is involved in a follow-on contract to explore the problem further, Rakes says. He declined to comment on the specifics of the follow-on contract.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2
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