Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: Thales TopOwl Helmet Does It All

 - June 20, 2011, 8:00 PM

The TopOwl helmet-mounted sight and display on show here in the Thales pavilion is in service already on five helicopter models in 16 countries. The company has delivered more than 700 copies, and says more than 1,600 will be in service over the next 10 years.

Yves Joannic, Thales v-p helicopter avionics, said the helmet was designed by pilots for pilots, combining comfort with performance and versatility. Each helmet is customized for the individual user, Joannic said, explaining that a robot scans the pilot’s head, then designs the headshell so that the center of gravity of the full helmet corresponds to that head. The design reduces neck fatigue, he claimed. Total weight is just 4.4 pounds, including optics.

The customization process also ensures that the visor is in the right place for the user’s eyes and does not need to be adjusted when the pilot dons the helmet. The display module is binocular, rather than monocular, and provides 100-percent overlap between the both eyes over its 40-degree field of view. “It’s the best binocular performance on the market,” according to Joannic.

An electromagnetic head tracker measures the wearer’s line of sight, so the navigation and weapon aiming symbology can be overlaid with infrared imagery from an external sensor and an augmented reality view of terrain generated by a digital database.

The helmet also comes with its own image intensifier tubes powered by a single battery in the interface box, which add about seven ounces to the total weight. Both infrared and image intensifier views can be integrated readily with the synthetic-terrain imagery.