Lockheed Martin 'pilotage' on V-280 to offer US Army improved situational awareness

The Lockheed Martin Pilotage Distributed Aperture System (PDAS) developed for the Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft will offer the Pentagon improved situational awareness on a variety of air and land platforms, a company official told IHS Jane's on 14 October.

"PDAS is our next-generation pilotage sensor system," said Rita Flaherty, vice-president of strategy and business development for Lockheed Martin's missiles and fire control division. "We think that it's a next-generation leap-ahead technology to enhance situational awareness in a small, lightweight package that will minimize the need for maintenance." Beyond its use on the V-280 that Bell has developed for the US Army's Joint MultiRole Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD), the system could be applied to manned and unmanned as well as land and aerial platforms, she said.

Specifically, the system in its initial configuration uses six electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) cameras distributed across a platform to gather data that is digested by an open architecture processor, Flaherty explained. Lockheed Martin's Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) system for the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter is a simpler version of PDAS that rides on the nose of that platform. Flaherty added that PDAS provides more than just pilotage, in that it is also intended to be a threat warning and overall situational awareness system for both pilot and crew via helmet-mounted displays that enable them to conduct mission planning as they approach a destination. Lockheed Martin does not yet have a business relationship with any helmet manufacturer for PDAS, Flaherty noted.

US Army aviation leaders last year said that they are in urgent need of new systems to help helicopter pilots navigate through degraded visual environments (DVEs). While PDAS is not a complete DVE system, it could be part of a solution, Flaherty said. "PDAS has applicability for flight in DVEs," she said.

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