Augmented reality facilitates helicopter landings on ships

May 11, 2020 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Augmented reality facilitates helicopter landings on ships
Landing a helicopter in poor visibility on a strongly fluctuating ship is a great challenge even for experienced pilots. Scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed an assistance system that displays important information directly in the visor of the pilot's helmet. The system thus enables a precise landing approach in extreme weather conditions.

It is stormy, the waves cause the ship to sway violently, and the whipping spray and dense clouds further obstruct visibility. The helicopter pilot heads for the small landing place on the ship. He knows that the rotor blades must not come too close to the superstructure of the deck. However he must come close enough onto the deck so that the hull does not tip over into the sea. In heavy weather, pilots have to abort the manoeuvre over and over again and again and start a new attempt.

This challenging and dangerous situation is simulated by scientists at a simulator of the TUM’s Department of Helicopter Technology. They are developing solutions to make approach and landing on a ship deck in bad weather conditions safer for pilots.

"On the high seas there are hardly any reference points to orientate oneself," explains Tim Mehling, PhD student at the Chair of Helicopter Technology. The pilots therefore have to frequently turn their eyes away from the ship in order to be able to read important information on the conventional cockpit instruments. Mehling’s idea for the solution to the problem is to display all relevant information from helicopter and ship in real time as augmented reality directly in the helmet.

The scientist first developed a realistic simulation of the maritime environment. In parallel, he worked with experienced naval test pilots and on the basis of national and international standards to determine what information the pilots needed for a safe landing approach. The research team developed a corresponding symbolism for each flight phase during the landing approach to the ship. The coordinated symbolism is automatically displayed in the pilot's helmet according to the flight phase.

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