Pathfinder Advanced Pilotage System Enters Developmental Flight Testing

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Lockheed Martin reported progress with its Pathfinder advanced pilotage system, designed to improve situational awareness and flight safety of utility aircraft and helicopters through the use of helmet mounted displays facilitating ‘heads-up’, ‘eyes-out’ performance. Pathfinder utilizes modules of the Modernized Pilot Night Vision System (M-PNVS) developed for the AH-64D attack helicopter. Pathfinder recently entered the developmental testing phase, where pilots and flight engineers from the US Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) are evaluating its technical readiness level for application on cargo and utility aircraft.

The first flight was performed on an Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter. This test phase will be followed by limited user test and evaluation in an operational environment where Army air crews will evaluate the system’s performance role in an operational environment. Lockheed Martin is heading the Pathfinder industry team, which also includes BAE Systems, Elbit Systems of America (EFW) and Thales.

Pathfinder offers exceptionally wide field of view imaging derived by the forward-looking infrared (FLIR) system developed specifically to support terrain flight and terminal operations in unimproved landing areas during reduced visibility conditions. Its high definition resolution allows pilots to fly at safer altitudes and airspeeds while providing the necessary information to complete complex missions while avoiding obstacles such as wires, poles and trees.

The Pathfinder also uses a Visible/Near Infrared (V/NIR) camera that enhances situational awareness in low light conditions by blending the V/NIR sensor video with Pathfinder FLIR. Pilots can now see cultural and military lighting, providing aircrews enhanced mission capability and safer flying conditions. The sensor also allows aviators to see laser pointers, improving coordination with ground units.

The imaging sensors are located in a rotateable turret mounted on the helicopter’s chin. The system was designed as a ‘logistical conscious’ kit, employing only three line-replaceable modules. Part of the system’s modules are common with the AH-64D Apache’s M-PNVS, improving availability and distribution of spare parts.