QinetiQ has developed and successfully flown a day/night, all-environment visibility system intended to give helicopter pilots complementary sources of imaging information to fly safely in low light or adverse weather.
The U.K. defense research firm conducted the trial, dubbed HawkOwl, a Westland Sea King Mk4-X, under the sponsorship of the U.K. Defence Ministry’s Director of Equipment Capability Air Littoral Maneuver. The support came from that office’s Day/Night, All-Weather Helicopter Operations Applied Research Program.
QinetiQ used color panoramic and display night-vision goggles (NVGs) together with a head-tracking system, onboard mission planning and route generation, precision navigation, dynamic flight path guidance, and conformal, task-dependent, symbology.
It integrated all of that into a single system. Inputs from thermal imaging and low-light TV sensors were fused in real time to provide what Qinetiq called optimum imaging on a head-down display. The real-time, adaptive, image-fusion process and all other technical aspects of the program underwent a variety of qualitative and quantitative assessments during the flight trials, it said, to determine the system’s performance and the capability.