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This helmet lets fighter pilots ditch their night vision goggles

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 9:41am
Chris Warner, Executive Editor

Military jobs are synonymous with stress, but one of the most stressful jobs even by military standards is that of the jet fighter pilot. Not only are they required to process a lot of operational information very quickly, they must do it while wearing headgear that can strain the head and neck the faster the plane flies. For instance, when jet fighter pilots need night vision, they must strap on an external pair of night vision goggles. According to the BBC, night vision goggles typically weigh about 1.1 lbs., but they can weigh nine times as much when the jet accelerates at 9G.

See: Photos of the Day: The Striker II night vision helmet

The Striker II night vision helmet from BAE Systems aims to free up the pilot by integrating night vision within the helmet itself. The company introduced the helmet this week at the Farnborough Airshow. According to the company, the system “integrates a center-mounted ISIE-11 sensor based on Intevac Photonics’ patented advanced imaging sensor technology, known as the electron bombarded active pixel sensor (EBAPS).”

Since a digital night vision camera goes inside the helmet and information is fed onto the visor, the pilot will experience fewer g-force effects on their head and neck while benefitting from greater situational awareness. The pilot’s actions will less likely be delayed by having to look for information because operational information will now appear in their field of vision. Comfort is further enhanced because the pilot no longer needs to make any adjustments to the hardware in day-to-night transitions. BAE also added “a cutting-edge tracking system that ensures the pilot’s exact head position and the aircraft computer system are continuously in sync.”

So many of today’s electronic devices intend to “free up” the user one way or the other, whether to reduce the amount of bulky equipment the user may need, to save steps in a task, or as in the case of head-up displays, to keep the user focused on what is in front of them. Helmet-mounted display systems with night vision integrated into the visor promise to do all of these things. If they succeed in enhancing jet pilots’ capabilities while delivering head and neck comfort, these helmet mounted displays may indeed take a load off jet pilots’ minds … and neck … and shoulders.

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