Augmented reality display lets pilots see through clouds and fog

Even top guns do not have the ability to predict poor weather or foresee obstacles in their flight path.

But a new helmet-mounted display could be a pilot's 'eye in the sky', as it has the ability to see through even the thickest fog and create digital images of on coming obstacles.

The technology combines terrain information and sensor readings to show speed, altitude and position - all displayed alongside digitally outlines of the landscape in front of the pilot's line of sight.

Fog, blizzards, rainstorms and gusts of wind can all affect how the aircraft files, as lift is created by the air rushing over the wings.

Shifts in air pressure, wind speed or an intense impact of lift are powerful enough to force an aircraft to suddenly rise or fall.

However, these events can be prevented if the pilot can predict what is up ahead – before they reach it.

Technical University of Munich believes their helmet-mounted display, which uses digital eye glasses, is the solution to this problem, even if the pilot's vision is impaired by outside conditions.

All of the data from outside is processed aboard the aircraft and projected directly to the see-through head-mounted display.

This gives the pilot an ability to see obstacles with his own eyes and also view digitally generated outlines of the landscape and other potential obstacles.

Franz Viertler, one of the researchers, who is not a skilled pilot, entered the cockpit of a helicopter on a gloomy day in Tegernsee, Germany.

He notes that the clouds were so thick that 'under normal circumstances, a helicopter would not be allowed to take off in such weather - the danger that the pilot would not be able to react in time to a construction crane, a power line or a mountain would be too great'.

The results showed that for ranges of sight below 800 meters, the pilots benefited measurably from the terrain and flight data displayed.

Not only were they able to fly faster and safer wearing the helmet-mounted display, they also reported the flights being less demanding in terms of physically and mentally.

And the technology shined even more when visibility become extremely poor in visual ranges of just 100 to 400 meters.

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