Universal Avionics is continuing its research partnership with the FAA to further develop and mature new regulations to support the use of enhanced flight vision systems/enhanced helicopter vision systems (EFVS/EHVS) for rotorcraft. The FAA is also evaluating the use of the company’s Heli-ClearVision as a representative EHVS to improve helicopter safety and provide operational benefit in day, night, and low-visibility conditions.
The Heli-ClearVision lineup includes the SkyLens head-wearable display (HWD) and the SkyVis helmet-mounted display (HMD), which are capable of displaying primary flight display flight symbology, conformal information, synthetic vision system (SVS), enhanced vision system (EVS) with an EVS-4000 multispectral camera, and combined vision system (CVS).
"I have flown with an HMD for the majority of my flight career," explained Tal Golan, rotorcraft business development manager with Universal Avionics. "During that time,” he added, “I personally experienced many occasions where such a system kept me out of trouble at either dark night, poor visibility, or just harsh flight conditions all around.”
Universal Avionics hardware was fully integrated into the FAA's Sikorsky S-76 flying testbed helicopter at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey. Once the integration was completed, training and familiarization flights were conducted with FAA test pilots, followed by the start of data collection flights for the FAA's planned research and development.
Golan continued, "I know firsthand that a system, such as Heli-ClearVision, will not only be an overall safety multiplier, but will also greatly assist any helicopter flying at night, in IMC, and during any other challenging conditions to safely complete the mission. Even more so, to those who fly special missions such as SAR, EMS, law enforcement and firefighting. The program we have with the FAA shows our dedication in shaping safer, better, and more efficient helicopter operations."
The next phase of testing is planned for early this year and includes additional day, night, and twilight flights with the SkyLens HWD and SkyVis HMD. Later this year, experimental trials are scheduled to include the SkyVis night-vision goggle HMD.
"This research allows us to jointly investigate EHVS technology through both head-worn and helmet-mounted displays coupled with CVS sensors," said Cliff Johnson, FAA research program manager for helicopter safety. "The research directly supports the FAA's ongoing aviation safety initiatives to develop criteria for helicopter operations in low visibility environments," he added.
The program comes as the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) is recommending the use of EHVS technologies, including EVS, night-vision goggles, SVS, and CVS. This recommendation came after USHST in 2017 completed its analysis of the root causes of fatal helicopter accidents and had developed 22 measurable safety enhancements aimed at reducing fatalities. Four of the USHST’s safety enhancements relate to flight in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) and degraded visibility. At Heli-Expo 2019, Universal Avionics (an Elbit Systems company) is showing a three-display EFI-890H advanced flight display system simulated in a Sikorsky S-76 flight deck (Booth C4028). Visitors can run-through the equipment functionality for the basic system and pilot controls/selections. In a separate display, an EFI-890H is set-up with new software, allowing for demonstration of new hover steering displays using GPS velocities and a new transition-to-hover function.