Awarded $750,000 Air Force Contract to Make Helicopter Landings Safer in Poor Visibility
Littleton, Colo.—Littleton, Colorado-based TerraMetrics, Inc., announced today that it has been awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract by the Air Force Research Laboratory to research and develop a system that will help make helicopter landings safer during zero-visibility conditions in dry, arid regions such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The two-year effort supports Air Force Special Operations Forces and leads up to a flight demonstration.
The TerraBlocks Clear-to-Land (CTL) system uses in-flight stereo cameras to capture terrain features and ground hazards, and produces an accurate, computer-generated 3D terrain model of the physical landing location. Model details continue to fill in as more data becomes available. The “see and remember” approach provides situational awareness of the landing location when ground hazards and other physical features become engulfed in blinding dust clouds known as a brownout.
Helicopter brownouts have become a pressing problem for the U.S. military in light of current operations in the Middle East, where desert conditions can make landing a dangerous prospect. Spinning helicopter rotors create thick, swirling clouds of dirt and debris, making it difficult for pilots to control and stabilize their aircraft or see ground obstacles. The Air Force Special Operations Command has attributed brownout conditions to the loss of more than 30 rotarywing aircraft and 60 lives in recent years.
Some technologies under development to improve pilot visibility rely on active sensors, whose emissions can easily be detected by radar. The TerraBlocks CTL system uses passive sensors to avoid this detection issue, making the system ideal for use in operations requiring stealthy aircraft.
“Our TerraBlocks Clear-to-Land system has the potential to solve a serious problem for the U.S. military and bring a new level of flight safety to military helicopter crews,” said TerraMetrics president Greg Baxes. “We also believe that this technology will enhance the safety of civilian operations such as search and rescue, and medical evacuation.”
The TerraBlocks CTL system builds on the display and rendering technologies of the TerraBlocks synthetic vision system, which TerraMetrics developed for in-flight use under contract to NASA’s Langley Research Center. The company is also under contract to NASA’s Stennis Space Center to research and develop a new technology that will allow Internet users to view earth data on 3D geospatial web browsers.
About TerraMetrics, Inc.
Founded in 1998, TerraMetrics, Inc., conducts innovative research and development of geospatial data, tools and systems for government, science and commercial applications. The company has recently completed research and development work on flight-based 3D terrain storage and rendering technologies, and a web service architecture that stores, processes and delivers massive, multi-dimensional science data sets to web-based geospatial browsers such as Google Earth. For more