How do you land a helicopter in a sandstorm? Soon the answer may be, “Push a button.” Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. recently demonstrated such a system to the U.S. Army. Participating were its teammates, Honeywell International and Sierra Nevada Corp.
The pilot presses a single button to engage the automated flight controls developed by Sikorsky. These controls bring the aircraft from en route flight to a low hover over a pre-programmed landing point. During the landing approach, Sierra Nevada’s three-dimensional radar, capable of penetrating sand and dust, detects terrain and objects within the intended landing zone. Using radar and other data, Honeywell's synthetic vision system displays on a cockpit screen a three-dimensional view of the landing zone and surroundings.
The system integrates several technologies, including advanced flight controls, a “see-through” sensor, advanced synthetic vision, and data fusion, allowing the pilot to locate and touch down on level landing terrain free of obstacles.
The pilot monitors the automated approach by viewing an electronic representation of the landing zone, and adjusts the precise landing point in relation to slopes and other objects while the automated flight controls maintain stability. The system includes a 360-degree view of terrain and objects in relation to the intended landing point.