The other night, I attended the Royal Aeronautical Society’s talk on ‘tactical helicopter flight in degraded visual environments (DVE)’.
Desert operations which have taken place recently in Afghanistan and Iraq have generally taken place during brownouts and these have driven the US Army to tackle flying in instrument meteorological conditions.
Furthermore, it has been reported that US Army research states that there have been nine to ten fatalities a year between 2001 and 2015 due to DVE accidents. This works out to be around 140 lives lost over 14 years.
This loss of life is motivating the US Army to take serious action with regards to a working DVE solution with the US government.
‘We are losing lives every year, and by bringing it in-house, where the government is doing the integration, and leveraging what it has already been doing with brownout, then we can develop a solution much faster,’ Col Matt Hannah, PM Aviation Systems at PEO Aviation, told Shephard in April this year at Quad A in Atlanta, Georgia.
Further to market research, the US Army will be utilising emerging technology being developed by the Pentagon for its Brownout Rotorcraft Enhancement System.
Prospective DVE solutions were put forward by Nova Systems. One was the consideration of roadmaps which are being utilised by the UAV community and this ‘drives’ funding for roadmaps more widely because of the capability of UAVs to operate everywhere.
Technologically, the smartening of symbology could be heightened when approaching a landing site.
This raised an interesting discussion on whether pilots flying synthetically with HMDs was a proactive approach to the challenges posed by DVE.
This in turn spurred on a debate in relation to virtual reality as a false friend because if databases are not fully updated prior to flight this could effect a pilot’s approach, especially if obstacles on a landing site appear which are not within the programme.
What is evident is the call for operation and operational standards, especially when trying to reach technology readiness state eight which looks at systems and subsystems development.
The talk raised some pertinent questions and challenges. The need for a solution is present but is there a demand from the wider helicopter community – commercial, HEMS to EMS? And if so can there be a collaborative approach on the issue in the UK and more widely the world?
What will be interesting to see is if the community are waiting to see what the Pentagon produces and whether that can be applied to rotorcraft going forward.