It’s All in the Eyes

Pilots gain the upper hand with new age helmet mounted display systems

Younis Ahmad Kaloo

F-35’s helmet gives increased situational awareness to the pilot
F-35’s helmet gives increased situational awareness to the pilot ©Lockheed Martin

New Delhi: Over the years technological innovations have transformed pilot helmets a great deal. Moving beyond but not doing away with the functions of preventing head injury, saving eyes from harsh sunlight, flash and laser beams, today’s helmets enable the pilot to receive full operational information — images, maps and data — accurately at any given situation on his visor. Not only this, the pilot onboard plays with the eyes as his helmet allows him to launch munitions at the target he is looking at, besides making his night performance even better.

“The whole aim is to provide the information directly to the eyes of the pilot without looking outside,” says retired Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur. ”This makes the pilot’s flight easier by giving him just the right amount of information about the environment around him,” he adds.

The modern pilot helmets also come with an increased comfort level for the pilot. Earlier, in the older generation of pilot helmets, exterior night vision goggles would be fitted, which added to the overall weight on the pilot’s head. When the jet accelerates at 9G, even the slightest weight becomes nine times heavier. Goggles are also responsible for changing the centre of gravity of a helmet, due to which the pilot induces neck strain and his flight in the dark is also restricted.

In the new age pilot helmets, however, a high definition display of symbology and imagery is presented to the pilot. BAE System’s Striker II helmet mounted display (HMD) is an example in this regard. It is a fully digital solution that provides today’s combat pilot with extraordinary night vision and target tracking technology within a fully-integrated visor-projected HMD system. Being lightweight with advanced audio system, are some other qualities of the helmet.

The system in BAE’s helmet displays the exact view on the visor in real time because of the cameras installed all around the aircraft which are linked to the helmet wirelessly. The Striker’s HMD allows the pilot to communicate with the plane.

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