AFRL Looks to Camera to Solve Brownout

The Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, believes its work with Applied Minds Inc, Glendale, Calif., may offer a solution to the devastating brownout effects experiences by US military helicopters flying in Iraq. AFRL asked for industry input for a sensor-type solution earlier this year. Applied Minds has offered at least one promising solution—a photographic landing augmentation system for helicopters, or PhLASH—which basically is a camera mounted on the front of a helicopter. Popular Mechanics reports that PhLASH takes a picture of a landing zone “from as far away as two football fields,” before the helo rotors can kick up dust and sand. The digital image appears on the helo’s instrument panel in front of the flight engineer. The system has been tested on a commercial helicopter, and AFRL plans to try it on an MH-53 in December. One big drawback is the price tag—about $150,000 per PhLASH set up.