The US Air Force (USAF) is to equip its Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters with equipment for flying in degraded visual environments using a DVE system (DVES).
The USAF announced on 16 May that it is seeking from industry a DVES that specifically address the operational limitations and safety risks associated with aircraft-induced incidents, such as brownout and whiteout (the blinding effects of dust/dirt and snow during the take-off and landing phases of a helicopter’s flight profile).
“Current systems on the HH-60G do not provide adequate situational awareness (SA) to pilots and aircrew during operation in some degraded visual environments (DVE),” the USAF’s pre-solicitation said, adding “Despite the risks, pilots and aircrew of the HH-60G are routinely called upon to perform their critical mission of combat search and rescue (CSAR) and personnel recovery under DVE conditions.”
As noted in the draft pre-solicitation issued by the DVES Integrated Product Team at Robins Air Force Base (AFB) in Georgia, the USAF expects that the DVES solution will already be developed to a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of seven (system prototype demonstration in an operational environment) or higher.
“The DVES will feature a forward-looking sensor system that will observe the physical scene and collect data on terrain and objects that will be displayed to the pilot, either as imagery, a perspective view of a 3D digital elevation map (DEM), or a map of detected obstacles. The DVES will also feature a Symbology Generation System (SGS), which will provide information on aircraft dynamics and position relative to designated way-, landing-, and hover-points,” the USAF said, noting that the DVES will improve SA by providing real-time or near-real-time data on terrain and obstacles that would otherwise be obscured by a DVES.
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