Lockheed Martin Corp has announced on 15 April that cutting-edge Pilotage Distributed Aperture Sensor (PDAS) system took flight for the first time aboard the V-280 Valor, Bell Helicopter’s next-generation tiltrotor aircraft in a
This system uses multiple cameras to offer pilots a 360-degree view around their aircraft, similar to the Distributed Aperture System on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The company has previously tested it on board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, as well.
This is a game-changing capability that could improve their ability to avoid threats, navigate more safely, even at night and in other poor visibility conditions, and simply have better situational awareness overall during flight.
The modular technology could have applications far beyond tilt-rotors and other rotorcraft, including fixed-wing aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles, and might find uses in the commercial sector, too.
Our PDAS system is test proven to enable @Army_Aviation warfighters to own any environment and detect incoming threats. Here’s how it performed in the skies: https://t.co/KVCbG4o0m1 pic.twitter.com/ZP4FbxnUEi
— Lockheed Martin (@LockheedMartin) April 16, 2019
The PDAS configuration on the V-280 consists of six infrared cameras positioned around the aircraft. A central processing system “stitches together” these feeds and then pump them into helmet-mounted displays for the pilot and co-pilot, as well as fixed screens in the cockpit. The result is that pilots can “see” in any direction, including what would otherwise be blind spots, such as through the floor or straight to the rear of the aircraft.
This is similar in general principle to how the Northrop Grumman AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS) works on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The DAS similarly gives pilots in these stealthy fighter jets a panoptic view in any direction.
According to a news release put out by Lockheed Martin, PDAS is a multi-functional sensor system that generates high-resolution, 360-degree imagery around the aircraft to enhance situational awareness for pilots and other users.
The PDAS system captured complete spherical infrared imagery while operating in a high-speed, tactically relevant flight environment and generated real-time imagery.
“Conducting PDAS flight tests on the V-280 is an exciting first step toward delivering a level of situational awareness unavailable on today’s Army rotorcraft,” said Rita Flaherty, strategy & business development vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “With its embedded, multi-functional sensors, PDAS is the ideal foundation for an integrated survivability suite that will enable Army aircrews to own any environment and universally detect and defeat incoming threats.”
The video below includes clips from Lockheed Martin’s test of the PDAS-equipped V-280 in March 2019.
Lockheed Martin’s PDAS presents a simpler, less deeply integrated option that is more applicable to helicopters and tilt-rotors, such as the V-280. The company started development of the system as something that could eventually work its way into the Army’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) technology demonstration, which is supposed to lead into parts of the larger Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program.