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By Julian Nettlefold

18 March 2010. New defence technologies were revealed last Friday during a joint showcase event to mark National Science and Engineering Week.

The event gave an insight into current technologies being deployed in support of the Armed Forces and a forward look at the scientific innovations which may one day add to the current impressive range of tools which give military personnel a battle-winning edge.

During his visit to the event, Defence Minister Peter Luff confirmed that the budget for Defence Science and Technology would rise in cash terms over the Comprehensive Spending Review period.

He said, “Scientists, engineers and inventors are often behind novel solutions to defence and security needs. This funding demonstrates our commitment to helping them develop innovative and cutting edge ideas to help improve and protect the lives of the Armed Forces.

“I have been impressed with the technology on show today and that’s why protecting this funding has been so important to me. But don’t get me wrong, after the way the science budget has been slashed in recent years, we should be aiming to increase investment as soon as we can.”

Rear Admiral Rees Ward (Rtd), Chief Executive Officer of Aerospace, Defence and Security and Secretary of the Defence Industries Council, said, “This event provides an important opportunity for the Ministry of Defence and the Industry to showcase their joint efforts in providing the best possible equipment to our Armed Forces both now and in the future. Maintaining a technological advantage is crucial and is only achieved through continuing investment in Research and Technology and through close cooperation between industry and Government. As we look at the equipment of the future, it seems fitting that this event should take place as part of National Science and Engineering Week with its focus on education and encouraging the engineers and scientists of tomorrow to make a difference in support of our troops.”

Technology on show at the event included:

Dstl Helicopter ‘brownout System

A pioneering approach to tackling the problem of ‘helicopter brownout’ where a pilot loses visual references due to dust or sand. It uses a small, helmet-mounted display to provide a virtual 3D representation of the landing zone that stays fixed to the earth and helps the pilot to land safely.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), in conjunction with industry partners, AgustaWestland and Elbit, showcased the development of world leading technology designed to help helicopter pilots land more safely and efficiently in Afghanistan.

Scientists from Dstl, part of the U.K. MoD, have led the technical development of a pioneering approach to the problem of a low visibility landing (LVL) phenomenon known as „helicopter brownout.. Helicopter brownout occurs when a pilot loses visual references due to dust or sand re-circulating during take-off or landing, which is a major problem in desert conditions.

Over a six month period, working in conjunction with engineers at AgustaWestland, Dstl scientists analysed incident data to understand what had happened and identify the causal factors. They also conducted a rapid technology assessment of as many available solutions as possible including a simulator trial of one of the most promising technologies, 3D conformal symbology. This uses a small helmet-mounted display to provide a virtual 3D representation of the landing zone that stays fixed to the earth as the pilot approaches. The system uses the existing Elbit Night Owl helicopter optics systems fitted to all MoD helicopters, as a baseline to develop this new technology.

The symbology is carefully designed to augment the real world picture but also to provide all relevant information to allow the pilot to easily judge the height, speed and drift. It then replaces the real-world cues when the

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