Leading the Embedded World

Degraded Visual Environment Pilotage System

Landing a helicopter in a degraded visual environment (DVE) is one of the most challenging tasks for a pilot, particularly when some of that condition is created by rotor wash blowing up a cloud of dust, sand, or snow. The reduced situational awareness significantly increases the risk of dynamic rollover and hard landing, potentially resulting in the loss of the aircraft and crew. Yet, missions such as combat search and rescue (CSAR) require difficult landings with little to no visibility of the landing area.

To address that challenge, the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) contracted Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to develop the Degraded Visual Environment Pilotage System (DVEPS). DVEPS uses advanced Lidar and infrared (IR) sensors combined with a multi-resolution terrain database to create a combined vision display for the pilot. The data from those disparate sensors needs to be fused to provide a real-time image of the external scene topography and obstacles.

DVE mitigation systems help pilots overcome the loss of visual references (photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason van Mourik, Origon Military Department Public Affairs).

Sensor fusion is computationally intensive and includes geo-registering 3D data and scaling, translating, dewarping, and aligning the images. The resulting scene needs to be displayed with low latency, typically less than 100 ms from the time the images were acquired. Addressing these performance requirements during the critical landing stage leads to the need for a safety-critical multicore real-time operating system (RTOS).

The software foundation for DVEPS is the INTEGRITY-178 tuMP RTOS running on a quad-core Intel® Core® i7 processor. SNC selected INTEGRITY-178 tuMP due to its long pedigree of use in flight systems requiring DO-178B/C, its ability to run multiple applications on different processor cores concurrently, and its strong support for a variety of high-performance multicore processors, graphical processing units (GPUs), and safety-critical GPU drivers.

Special operations MH-60M with DVEPS sensors (photo by US Army SOCOM).

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