PERIOD OF PERFORMANCE: September 2016 to July 2018
The Department of Defense (DoD) has a need for cost reduction in the application and use of low-cost Degraded Visual Environment (DVE) see-through systems across the spectrum of military systems. ACI Technologies Inc. / Electronics Manufacturing Productivity Facility (EMPF) Center of Excellence and the Penn State University Electro-Optics Center collaborated to develop, on behalf and under the guidelines of NAVAIR / PMA-261 (heavy lift Helicopter Program), a trade study of an integrated sensor technology that currently exists in industry. This trade study included a Request for Information (RFI) that elicited technical concepts to integrate a low-cost, scalable, open systems architecture (i.e., layered structure) see-through capability in a DVE for the CH-53K. The objective of the RFI process and subsequent evaluation was to assess the current industry capabilities to meet the DVE requirement to allow safe aircraft operations for a rotorcraft landing. The evaluation of the RFI responses included the development of trade study criteria, based on the information listed in the Product Description Criteria table included in the RFI. As a result of the trade study, PMA-261 was provided a recommendation based on the technical evaluation of the qualitative and quantitative data from the evaluation criteria.
The benefit of doing this study was the development of a preliminary set of requirements, measurements of effectiveness, and white paper proposals for a realistic affordable concept for a DVE sensor solution for the landing DVE function on the CH-53K. This specification and the white papers solicited from industry identified the technology currently available, and could be used to solicit system designs and cost proposals from the radar industry. In addition, cost reduction could be achieved through manufacturing process upgrades.
By developing new manufacturing processes in the development and construction of DVE sensor systems, there are opportunities for this cost reduction to propagate throughout the DoD rotary aircraft industry. This study provided a preliminary set of requirements for an integrated sensor solution, based on the white paper proposals for a realistic, affordable concept for a DVE sensor solution for the landing DVE function of the CH-53K. The technical investigation and trade study confirmed that the capabilities of a radio-frequency (RF) sensor solution integrated with a long-wave infrared sensor would allow the system to provide a see-through solution. A deeper investigation into the RF sensor capabilities identified in the white paper responses from industry could provide opportunities for affordability and cost reduction congruent with the established ManTech initiatives. The goal of this effort would be to develop an RF DVE prototype and Technical Data Package.