Volume 5, Number 4 July/August 1997
WEATHER-PIERCING CAMERA COULD ELIMInate air traffic delays due to poor visibility if it looks as good in the air as it does on the ground.
NASA's Langley Research Center and Ames Research Center, the U. S. Air Force Flight Test Center and an industry and government consortium led by TRW Space & Electronics Group, Redondo Beach, California, will demonstrate in flight a weather-piercing camera that has allowed researchers to see through fog, smoke and clouds.
|Weather piercing camera reduces delays.|
The camera "sees" in the millimeter wave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is invisible to the human eye. It produces video images from which a pilot discerns features like runways, obstacles and the horizon.
These features are sufficient to safely land, take off, roll out and taxi at any airline terminal in the country. The passive sensor camera emits no signals in an airport environment, so multiple equipped aircraft may operate simultaneously on the ground without risk of interference.
"This sensor program directly supports NASA's new goal to safely triple capacity at our nation's commercial airports within the next ten years--regardless of fog, clouds, smoke, and dust that can limit pilot visibility," said Tom Campbell, head of Langley's Electromagnetic Research Branch.
The Department of Defense awarded the TRW-led Passive Millimeter Wave Camera Consortium a $15 million cost-sharing contract in 1994 to adapt this technology to an airborne camera for military and civilian users. Langley, the government's principal representative, is funding the flight tests.
Langley also is performing lab tests to determine which materials are good candidates for the protective nose, dual-frequency band, radome that will house the camera on the flight test aircraft, a one-of-a-kind Air Force C-135. The consortium's radome design team will get data about optimum material thicknesses and rain erosion and static build-up protection from these tests. Then a new dual-frequency band radome will be fabricated by Composite Optics, Inc. and installed on the C-135 aircraft.
The compact camera will generate video images of the forward scene in low-visibility conditions. These images will be displayed on a see-through heads-up display suspended between the pilot and the windscreen.
"Based on the images we have acquired under low-visibility conditions, and the quality of the receivers we have developed, we are confident that we are bringing to the aviation market a needed product that can be manufactured efficiently and at low cost," said Dr. Steven Fornaca, the consortium's program manager at TRW.
For more information, contact Tom Campbell at Langley Research Center.
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