BAE Systems has launched a new helmet-mounted display technology that it says will deliver enhanced “head-up, eyes-out” situational awareness for helicopter pilots, but at a fraction of the cost of more advanced head-up displays now on combat aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Q-Sight family of clip-on displays will also weigh barely four ounces and will avoid center-of-gravity problems associated with other helmet-mounted systems.
Over the past few months, BAE’s defense avionics division has been introducing the new displays to leading helicopter manufacturers, including Boeing, Bell, Sikorsky, AgustaWestland, and Eurocopter, as well as to potential military operators in the U.S. and UK. Operational flight trials have already begun in the U.S. and BAE expects to have Q-Sight in production in the spring of 2009.
Initial target platforms for the new helmet-mounted display are utility and reconnaissance helicopters, for which BAE believes the equipment is particularly suited in terms of size and weight. AgustaWestland plans to offer Q-Sight as optional equipment for the new Future Lynx aircraft. According to BAE, the system’s modular design means that it can be easily retrofitted to almost any helicopter, and the “plug-and-play” architecture also lends itself to future upgrades. The manufacturer also envisions possible Q-Sight applications with police, search-and-rescue and offshore helicopter operators.
The initial family of new displays will start with the Q-Sight 100 model, providing basic day-and-night capability with a 30-degree monocular field of vision (FOV). The more advanced Q-250 unit will compare in performance to current binocular helmet-mounted displays. Along with the Q-150 and Q-200 models, it will have a 40-degree binocular FOV.
Japanese military officials have indicated to BAE that they are ready to run trials of the new displays. The manufacturer also plans to offer the equipment for South Korea’s new utility and attack helicopter programs.
The system moves light to the display using holographic waveguide technology and is designed to work in conjunction with night-vision goggles. It promises brighter displays, a larger “exit pupil” for pilot viewing and seamless transitions between day and night to increase pilot situational awareness and mission capability without the need to reconfigure the helmet.
The enlarged “exit pupil” (an area of around 35 mm where the light for the display makes contact with the eye) gives greater operational flexibility. For instance, it allows pilots to move their heads more without losing sight of the display. It also avoids the need to have helmets individually shaped for each pilot using a laser head scan.
According to BAE, the increased visibility and lightweight design minimize eye and neck strain, common problems for pilots managing the demands of longer missions and increasingly complex rules of engagement. The display’s decreased size and weight gives pilots greater freedom of movement within the cockpit.
In addition to the display itself, which sits about an inch from the pilot’s eye, Q-Sight also consists of symbology generation, signal conditioning and illumination sources. It interfaces with the main aircraft database. Optional upgrades include a helmet tracker, binocular vision and a digital night-vision camera. The new system will also be ready to stream next generation forward-looking infrared video.