Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mercury to assist safer landings

A Rambus Inc. IP licensee, lands (pun intended) new contract:

"BAE Systems Australia has chosen Mercury Computer Systems to provide a Synthetic Vision display for a flight-ready prototype brownout landing system for rotorcraft," said Operations Director Jim Hanson. "Mercury and BAE Systems will be working closely to assemble and integrate the system."

In 2002, the President of the American Helicopter Society identified brownout landings as the most critical safety issue facing rotorcraft. Brownouts can occur when a rotorcraft attempts to land on dusty terrain. When a helicopter descends through the last 50 feet -- the most critical stage of any landing -- the downwash created by the rotors pick up the dust on the ground. This can reduce the pilot's visibility to zero. Dozens of helicopter accidents and deaths, both civilian and military, have been attributed to brownout landing accidents.

To address this problem, civil and government groups in the U.S. and abroad have begun to explore the issue by developing sensors that could detect terrain and obstacles. "See and Remember," a phrase coined by the Air Force Research Lab, refers to a brownout landing system that scans the landing area before the rotors kick up the dust. The scan is then fed to a computer that "remembers" where the terrain is, and then draws it on a cockpit-mounted computer monitor in 3D as the craft descends. In this way, the pilot has a 3D image of the terrain, even when visibility through the window is nil. The technology that generates this computer-drawn terrain from databases and sensor readings is called Synthetic Vision.
Read Mercury's press release here.

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