Farnborough Air Show

BAE’s helicopter terrain awareness system is a Blast

 - July 19, 2010, 1:30 AM

BAE Systems is preparing for the start of flight trials of a landing-vision aid for helicopter pilots that uses millimeter-wave radar to see through brownout conditions created by blowing dust or sand.

Called Blast, the technology can create 3-D or top-down views of a landing site and portray those images in the cockpit on a helmet-mounted or LCD multifunction display. Blast’s computer compares topography data with the radar image to determine the location of obstructions down to the size of a one-eighth-inch wire. Potential hazards are shown on the display in red.

BAE Systems plans to begin flight tests of Blast’s 94-GHz monopulse radar sensor next year in preparation for sales of the product to military customers. The technology would be particularly welcome in places like Afghanistan and Iraq where brownout-landing conditions are common, said Paul Cooke, director of business development for defense avionics at BAE Systems.

Real-time Situational Awareness
“Blast gives the pilot real-time situational awareness of objects in and around the landing zone,” Cooke said. “It uses a low-power, high-resolution modulated continuous wave radar that weighs just 10 pounds, so it’s perfect for use in a helicopter.” The radar signal is digitized and processed using monopulse processing to provide terrain details, including the height of objects, and create a 3-D terrain model. Missile maker MBDA supplies the radar.

A complementary technology, according to Cooke, is BAE Systems’ helmet-mounted Q-Sight display, which clips to any standard pilot helmet and can be used with night-vision goggles. Launch customer for Q Sight is the UK Royal Navy, which has ordered several units for upcoming missions. First deliveries are scheduled to start within 30 to 45 days, Cooke said. 

As part of the shift in focus to the Q-Sight product, BAE Systems has decided to stop marketing its Q-HUD for commercial applications, Cooke said. The decision will enable the HUD development team to focus more of its resources on the Q-Sight product, he explained.

This week, BAE Systems is offering demonstration of the Blast and Q-Sight technologies in the Farnborough show site’s FIVE building.