By B.C. Kessner
FARNBOROUGH, England–Israel’s Elbit Systems [ESLT] last week introduced its new “Dust-Off” system designed to mitigate helicopter brownout and other low-visibility landing problems.
“People from all over the world have already expressed a lot of interest in this new solution,” an Elbit representative affiliated with the program told Defense Daily Tuesday. His name is withheld because he is also a helicopter pilot in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reserve. “This is the real thing,” the pilot added.
Elbit developed Dust-Off in less than one year, the pilot said. “It was a very quick solution…the [component] systems were already working and combat proven in the Israel air force and the USAF.”
Dust-Off combines Elbit’s now off-the-shelf ANVIS/HUD-24T with Line of Sight (LOS) Tracker, the SWORD Laser RADAR (LADAR) and a digital mapping system.
According to the pilot, when helicopter rotors kick up the dust and debris common to barren landing zones (LZ), pilots often lose visual reference in this “brownout” and three quarters of accidents in these conditions are the result of “what happens next.”
“As soon as there is brownout, you’re doing everything you can to keep from drifting into a hill or obstacle,” he said.
With Head-Up Display, or HUD, pilots can see things like flight attitude, speed and plotted obstacles such as wires alit onscreen in a night-vision friendly green, the pilot said. But there can still be a tendency to look down at the dash for additional information when the dust hits.
Dust-Off employs the SWORD LADAR to scan the LZ and generate a three-dimensional picture of the area.
“Combined with the Helicom (HeliC3om) system, all of the scanned data gets incorporated into the tactical mission information…3-D picture, maps, comms data link,” he added. (HeliC3om is Elbit’s next generation, fully digital, integrated command, control communication and mission management system).
The ‘picture,’ or a graphically created image of the entire LZ–including boxed-out obstacles, buildings, terrain features, roads, etc.–is then projected real time on the pilot’s HUD. The LOS Tracker allows the pilot to “point out” into the brownout something or someplace he cannot see for real but can see via Dust-Off, the pilot said. “This is important, not just for attack pilots but [also for] utility…or assault pilots and crew by improving [situational awareness] and helo to ground force coordination.”
Elbit had a mini-theater presentation of Dust-Off and other systems here last week that attracted a constant flow of spectators.
For Dust-Off, large parts of a realistic tactical scenario portrayed a helicopter flight mission from the eyes of a pilot.
When brownout hit during a team extraction, the normal video image of the LZ was seamlessly replaced by a detailed glowing 3-D graphical representation.
“Now, pilots can keep their heads up…in brownout, whiteout, whatever,” the pilots said.
Dust-Off was demonstrated “very successfully” in a rigorous series of flight simulator tests and will be demonstrated in flight next month, the pilot said.
Because its component systems are already operational and well established, Dust-Off could be available “very soon,” he added.