Non-Mechanical LADAR for Improving The Helicopter Pilot's Situational Awareness in Reduced Visual Cue Environments
Navy SBIR FY2008.2


Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2008.2
Topic No.: N08-138
Topic Title: Non-Mechanical LADAR for Improving The Helicopter Pilot's Situational Awareness in Reduced Visual Cue Environments
Proposal No.: N082-138-0874
Firm: Arete Associates
P.O. Box 2607
Winnetka, California 91396-2607
Contact: James Murray
Phone: (303) 651-6756
Web Site: www.arete.com
Abstract: One of the major technical challenges of modern military and commercial rotary wing aviation is effective instrument aided navigation in brownout or whiteout conditions that can occur during landing or maneuvering in sandy, dusty, snowy or marine environments. Helicopter prop-wash churns up dense clouds of airborne particles that impede visibility. These conditions can escalate into crashing descents, lateral drift rollovers and collisions with ground features or obstacles. According to a recent Aviation Week & Space Technology article, "brownout has been blamed on the loss of more than 20 helicopters and 50 lives since 2001." This illustrates a compelling need to develop and field in situ situational awareness sensors that can see through dust clouds and generate 3D terrain and obstacle maps of the landing zone in near real-time to provide active visual feedback to pilots during landing in brownout or whiteout conditions. Areté Associates and Vescent Photonics have teamed to provide a state-of-the-art dust penetrating laser radar (DUSPEN) technology to see-through brownout/whiteout conditions. Areté will marry its fiber laser based imaging lidar technology and our extensive experience in developing 3D imaging lidar systems for applications in highly turbid medium with a newly developed non-mechanical beam steering technology pioneered by Vescent Photonics. This combination of technologies and experience should result in a significant advancement in see-through situational awareness sensor technology.
Benefits: The technology developed in this program will usher in a new suite of low-cost, high-performance fiber laser based laser radar sensors for situational awareness in reduced visual cue environments (e.g. brownout/whiteout). These sensors will be capable of seeing through brownout/whiteout obscurants and developing 3D images of the landing zone in near real-time. Advanced lidar data and imaging processing products will be capable of generating 3D hazard maps that can be used as visual cues to aid in landing and/or flight in highly obscured environments. These sensors will have application in both military and civilian rotary aircraft that operate in close quarter conditions or reduced visual cue (day or night) environments such as civil patrol, emergency airlift, fire-fighting, off-shore oil platform operations, geological surveys, etc. Additionally, fixed wing commercial operations could benefit from the use of this technology to enhance situational awareness during airport landings in conditions of limited visibility (e.g. fog, smoke, haze, snow, etc.).

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