November, 2006 - The entire pilot vision project is going to be redesigned using digital technology, advanced C++ programming and algorithms and hardened microprocessor packages. This undertaking is significant but is necessary to evolve the product into something more robust, current prototypes of the system are not field deployable and are experimental in nature.
April 17th, 2005 - We have some awesome videos for you to view. These are truly innovative steps we are taking with the pilot vision concept. Piloting by means of the HMD has proven challenging but also very rewarding.
April 9th, 2005 -First successful flight using the headmounted display as the means of piloting the aircraft. Using the headmounted display we were able to lift off into a hover and maneuver the helicopter. We have purposfully focused on this critical phase of flight to keep the project on track. Being able to takeoff and land the aircraft by means of the headmounted display (i-glasses HMD from i-O Display Systems) is critical to the project's success. We do not use a safety pilot for takeoff and landing. The following is a list of the technology highlights:
Much will be done in the coming months to refine these initial experiments in remote video telemetry. Stay tuned for future implementations of the Heli-Chair remotely piloted helicopter technology. We have an FAQ on this topic at the bottom of the page.
Videos and still images can be found here, current phase is "E", select videos by date
The Heli-Chair remotely piloted helicopter is truely a RPV (remotely piloted vehicle) in that all phases of flight are conducted without direct visual observation of the helicopter itself. We are relying entirely on the wireless video and audio link to pilot the aircraft. The images below are taken from the helicopter's onboard camera. The pilot is using the Heli-Chair flight system to maneuver the helicopter and amazingly in this case, is actually watching himself pilot the helicopter. The videos show this in stunning fashion as you watch the helicopter maneuver in a complete circle around behind the pilot. The position of the helicopter becomes unimportant because the video link is always displayed the same in the head-up display which the pilot is referencing. This technology is very powerful, its applications are practically unlimited!
Frequently asked questions about the Heli-Chair remotely piloted helicopter:
1) a computer flight sim can not possibly reproduce helicopter flight as accurately as a 'real' helicopter and that was our whole purpose for this originally. there are sims out there but we don't want a computer generated helicopter. we want something real with the pucker factor of a real machine that can crash.
2) tactile response and depth perception are definitely something we would like to improve on. we can add 3D stereo vision, attitude indicators, a virtual reality interface with engine gauges and more. a 'real' helicopter pilot would probably have a harder time than a brand new pilot that has never flown a helicopter. the feel of the controls can be an important aspect of flying. transitioning from a real aircraft to one without feedback is difficult but the inverse is not true. piloting the heli-chair is easy in comparison with being inside a full size aircraft where there are many more cues to the attitude of the helicopter.
3) flying the helicopter from this point of view is a unique perspective. you have to just get comfortable with the fact that you are on-board and when you fly around, you are in that helicopter. if you do a pedal turn and look at yourself in the video, it is not possible to think about the orientation of the helicopter in the traditional means. there isn't a "nose-in" orientation. probably the most distracting sense is that of sound. we have audio through the downlink but at the same time you can hear the helicopter flying around the environment. as the helicopter transitions through the environment around the heli-chair flight station, the sounds are moving around you but your perspective in the helicopter cockpit doesn't change.
4) our pilot currently has 1.5 hours of flying by means of the head mounted display (HMD). the first flights were nothing more than scooting around on the asphalt doing pedal turns, scraping up the training gear and hoping to lift off for at least 5 seconds. it took a while for the senses to get used to this. it is quite disorienting at first.
5) if the video feed stops completely there are only a few things you can do. freeze the cyclic control, freeze the pedals and drop the collective about an inch. if things are questionable and you need to really get it shut down, roll off the throttle and drop the collective. this sacrafices the helicopter but at least it isn't a runaway aircraft.
6) the purpose of the hood is to block out sunlight, improving the viewability of the liquid crystal display (LCD) inside the virtual reality goggles.