BAE Systems started night flight testing of its new night vision fighter pilot helmet

Night vision augmented reality pilot helmet trials begin

Night trials have started on the BAE Systems most advanced augmented reality fighter pilot helmet that sees in the dark and tracks the movement of the pilot’s head to improve spatial awareness. 

BAE Systems is testing the helmet in night flight trials from its Military Air & Information business in Warton, Lancashire, before commencing test flights with the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet later this year. 

“The second set of trials is the next step in the flight test program to prove Striker II offers true ‘plug and play’ compatibility with the Typhoon and builds upon the initial trials to further evaluate the digital night vision capability,” said Chris Colston, business development director at BAE Systems.

The Striker II helmet, fitted with a lightweight high-definition night vision camera, translates information and displays them on the helmet’s visor. Its cutting-edge tracking system ensures the pilot’s exact head position and the aircraft computer system are continuously in sync in order to display information in the clearest possible way.

"The new system provides near-zero delay between the information displayed and where the pilot's looking," Colston explained.

The immediacy of the information displayed prevents nausea, which is typical in virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift. When travelling at 2,400km/h like pilots of aircraft including Typhoon or Gripen often do, for which the helmet is designed, latency may be an even more serious issue.

"It can be disorientating for the pilot to the point where they can't continue to fly," said Colston.

BAE Systems said the helmet would remove the need for the pilots to wear traditional analogue night vision goggles, which add weight to the head gear and put extra strain on the pilot’s neck.

“This removes the need for heavy night vision goggles which increase g-force pressures on the head and neck, limiting the pilot’s manoeuvrability in the cockpit,” said Peter Kosogorin, test pilot for BAE Systems. “The helmet provides a clear and accurate visual display and a seamless transition from day to night, eliminating the need to manually configure and adjust night vision goggles.”

The fully digital Striker II builds upon BAE Systems’ current Striker head mounted display technology, which has been successfully deployed in theatre on Eurofighter typhoon and Gripen fleets. 

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