EO/IR Special Report: Project Eagle’s claws into legacy fleet
Airbus’ home grown onboard processing system, known as Eagle (Eye for Autonomous Guidance and Landing Extension), is progressing to the next round of flight tests, which are to be undertaken in the summer of this year.
The extensive ten-hour campaign tested the complete architecture of the system, including the camera sight and long-distance tracking, explained Tomasz Krysinski, VP of research and technology at Airbus Helicopters.
Eagle was able to determine a small ground target at ranges up to 3.2km and then automatically track it during the H225’s approach.
‘The target is to equip our helicopters with an external camera which is gyro-stabilised, and to allow the tracking elements to make the “sense and avoid” function and to couple them with our flight control system,’ Krysinski said.
This will, in turn, increase the situational awareness for the pilot and result in an autonomous landing.
The sense-and-avoid application could be utilised by VTOL aircraft and, in particular, the next generation of flight being explored by the OEM, including CityAirbus, Racer and Vahana.
Krysinski explained to Shephard that the programme is on track to be applied to the company’s legacy aircraft in two years’ time.
‘The timeline is to validate everything next year and in 2019 concentrate on the industrial development and then [on] the first application on[board] our fleet in 2020,’ he said.
While the first set of flight tests was completed in December 2017 at the Marignane facility in France, the next set of trials are anticipated for June.
Integration is planned across the Airbus portfolio – current and next-generation – for both civil and military applications.
‘Regarding the military application, of course it is one of the possible applications. So, we can obtain with this [system] simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM). It’s a promising image processing technique that powers 3D terrain data reconstruction in real time,’ Krysinski said.
‘The Eagle will allow [the image processing] to perform the reconstruction during the approach before the [pilot enters] brownout. It can provide 3D representation of the landing zone [while] updating the helicopter localisation by displaying [the landing zone] and it will help [the pilot] in these operations.’
He added that the integration of night vision capabilities through a laser is earmarked for the future.
The H225M is currently operated all over the world, from the Asia-Pacific region, where it is in service with military forces in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, to the French, Mexican and Brazilian MoDs.