TerraMetrics Awarded Navy Contract to Help Helicopter Pilots “See” Landing Zone in Blinding Dirt and Sand
Littleton, Colo.—Littleton, Colorado-based TerraMetrics,
Inc., announced today that it has received a Small Business Innovation Research Phase I contract from the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to investigate a new system that will help helicopter formations land more safely in dusty, desert areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The six-month effort has been funded for $80,000 and may lead to follow-on work.
The new system uses a special laser radar, known as LADAR, to capture real-time information about objects and terrain in the landing zone from the lead helicopter in a formation. The system feeds this massive data set into a computer for processing into a 3D terrain-obstacle model that can be analyzed and displayed to the pilot. The model is transmitted from the lead helicopter, along with generated route plans, to the other formation aircraft for display.
Although poor visibility conditions in desert areas are not a new hazard in military aviation, landing helicopter formations in dust and sandstorms creates unique challenges. During landing maneuvers, the lead helicopter often produces dense clouds of dirt that can disorient and blind the other pilots in the formation. Crews must avoid hitting each other as well as ground obstacles when setting their aircraft down. The large numbers of helicopters and volume of flights that support conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan underscore the danger and cost of desert flying conditions. Armed forces including the Navy, Air Force and Army have been plagued with the hazards of landing helicopters in brownout conditions and the subsequent losses of crew and equipment.
“We believe that the system we’re investigating can enhance NAVAIR’s ability to conduct essential helicopter operations in visually challenging environments, day or night,” said TerraMetrics president Greg Baxes. “Our technology delivers real-time landing zone three-dimensional imagery to helicopter pilots so that they have an accurate picture of obstacles and terrain once they lose visibility. This information can make all the difference in the success of a given military operation.”
The new technology 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