Send Solutions has developed a new laser-based system that can help pilots make better landings more consistently. Called Land-DAR, the device uses lidar (light detection and ranging) to determine height above ground and provide precise audio callouts from 500 to five feet.
Approved for installation in aircraft under FAA non-required safety-enhancing equipment (NORSEE) guidelines, Land-DAR can be installed in pressurized or unpressurized aircraft. Total system weight is 14 ounces and consists of a lidar sensor and audio interface box. The sensor can be mounted in an inspection plate for a simple installation, and wires connect the sensor to the audio interface, which is in turn connected to the aircraft’s audio panel and 28-volt power.
Once installed, a companion iOS or Android app is used to set the offset distance from the sensor to the ground with the landing gear down, the input volume, and the desired altitude callouts. Installation is available from Send Solutions dealers, and the system price is $7,950.
Send Solutions has tested Land-DAR on a King Air C90A twin-turboprop and single-engine RV-10. According to founder David Gray, it could also be helpful for helicopters to give pilots precise distance information for positioning a skid, for example. “It can measure any distance that you want,” he said, and measures up to 100 times per second, with accuracy to the centimeter. “We think there's an application for, let's say, a helicopter where they want to put a skid down and the pilot can't see the skid,” he said. “This could tell him how far off the ground the skid is.”
As the Land-DAR sensor detects the ground, it provides audio callouts of altitude according to the settings selected by the user. For now, Land-DAR can provide altitude callouts down to five feet, but Gray expects to be able to go lower with future NORSEE approvals.
For the King Air installation, the sensor was installed in a fuselage inspection plate aft of the nose gear wheel well. The audio is connected to the King Air’s Garmin G1000 avionics.
The Land-DAR concept is to give information to pilots that will help them with landings. “Forty percent of all aviation accidents happen in the landing phase,” Gray said. “We rely on depth perception. Landing is subjective, and we think Land-DAR can make it quantitative.”
Pilots who fly different aircraft have to get used to a different sight picture on landing, which can be challenging, as is the changing view when landing on narrow versus wide runways or at night instead of daytime. And depth perception deteriorates as pilots age. “This is something that will help make it a safer environment,” he said.
“We talked to flight instructors, and they said teaching someone to land is a real art,” Gray explained. “They’ve had students ask, ‘Don’t you have something that tells you how high you are off the ground?’”