Lockheed Martin's Pilotage Distributed Aperture Sensor (PDAS) system was flown aboard the Bell V-280 third-generation tiltrotor for the first time last month. PDAS consists of six infrared sensors distributed around the aircraft linked to aircrew helmets and cockpit displays via an open-architecture processor. It generates high-resolution, real-time, 360-degree imagery around the aircraft to enhance situational awareness for pilots and other users. The system is currently deployed onboard Lockheed Martin’s F-35 strike fighter, but the company stressed the variant of the system testing on the V-280 was developed specifically for the needs of future vertical lift (FVL) aircraft.
During testing, engineers demonstrated PDAS's ability to provide simultaneous coverage to multiple independent displays. The system captured complete spherical infrared imagery while operating in a high-speed environment. While PDAS is currently generating imagery for two users, the system will ultimately support up to six users, which could include pilots in other aircraft and mission commanders on the ground. Aircrews can use the system’s all-weather pilotage imagery, while ground troops being transported in the cabin can survey the environment for tactical information and threats. Planned PDAS upgrades include Multi-Modal Sensor Fusion (MMSF), which blends data from multiple sensors to restore aircrew situational awareness in degraded visual environments and enables navigation in GPS-denied zones.
"Conducting PDAS flight tests on the V-280 is an exciting first step toward delivering a level of situational awareness unavailable on today's Army rotorcraft," said Rita Flaherty, strategy and business development vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "With its embedded, multifunctional sensors, PDAS is the ideal foundation for an integrated survivability suite that will enable Army aircrews to own any environment and universally detect and defeat incoming threats."