Netherlands’ National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) is being asked to come up with solutions to the problem of helicopter brownouts, or when clouds of sand and dust rise up during a rotorcraft landing in desert conditions. The issue, which has become more pertinent with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, can be hazardous, as pilots may become partially or completely blinded during the final seconds before touching down. The Dutch Ministry of Defence asked NLR to study the issue, particularly for transport helicopters including the Chinook. One solution being vetted is the use of helmet-mounted displays (HMDs), which would allow the pilots to “see” surrounding terrain through the use of sensors. NLR will test HMDs in its Helicopter Pilot Station simulator. The NLR program will coincide with other efforts from the U.S., Germany and the UK, including the use of computer-generated images that are linked to sensors that can see through dust and sand.
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