By Summer Richie
Seeing is believing. This adage is what prompted Elbit America to acquire a twin-engine light helicopter and modify it as a test and demonstration platform dubbed the Vertical Lift Test Bed or VLTB. The experimental helicopter is used to test various company systems, such as the X-Sight, a sophisticated Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) designed for rotorcraft pilots. The inspiration for the VLTB was how customers could really see how the X-Sight performed, if they could wear the HMD while airborne and experience the benefits of the solution in flight. Understanding that seeing and experiencing innovation is key, the VLTB team took the helicopter to the Vertical Flight Society Forum 78 in Fort Worth, Texas, where others dedicated to vertical flight could see just what this team was up to. The response was very enthusiastic.
“If you’ve never seen [the X-Sight] before, it is a striking technology. However, seeing it on a computer screen is a lot different than having it on your head,” said Elbit America Principle Engineer Eddie Huddleston. “At first, people stopped by to see the helicopter just because they recognized the model. By lunch, we were swamped and had people standing in line, waiting to check it out.”
The X-Sight HMD provides an expanded field of view, providing more situational awareness and results in less eye strain for helicopter pilots. The system uses radar and other sensors mounted on the outside of the rotorcraft, in addition to data from public sources, to overlay an augmented reality of the terrain onto the helmet’s visor. With X-Sight, a pilot can stay head-up, eyes out.
According to Huddleston, nearly a quarter of the Forum 78 participants visited the VLTB at the three-day Forum from within the Fort Worth Convention Center. Demo flights weren’t available, but that didn’t dim the excitement for the aircraft or the X-Sight and the various sensors, processors and software that the HMD supports.
Having the VLTB with attendant subsystems at Forum 78 allowed potential end-users, Department of Defense customers, and Future Vertical Lift stakeholders to directly interact with Elbit America technology, said Mike Lengyel, a senior staff systems engineer with the company.
“Show attendees had the opportunity for first-hand exposure to systems hardware and software and could ask questions to better understand exactly what they were seeing and the benefits Elbit America brings to the Warfighter,” Lengyel said.
In addition to what Elbit America displayed on the convention center floor, company engineers were also honored with a Best Technical Session Paper Award in the Operations Forum at the event. The winning paper submitted by Lengyel, and colleagues, Bob Burzynski, Dan Ferrante, and Sid McManus, highlighted the company’s work on Air-Launched Effects (ALE) conducted at the United States Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona that demonstrated an integrated Unmanned Aerial System payload that could be used to defeat enemy Integrated Air Defense.
Advanced ALE is an essential component to the future of U.S. Army Aviation and, therefore, a highly sought capability, so Elbit America’s efforts in this realm are being noted for future development. The topic is also monitored closely by the Vertical Flight Society as the organization is continually pushing to progress developments in aviation.
For further information about Elbit America’s Airborne solutions, visit https://www.elbitamerica.com/airborne.