Clear to land: NASA new ‘augmented reality’ goggles will let airline pilots ‘see’ through fog

By Eddie Wrenn

PUBLISHED: 08:16 EST, 13 March 2012 | UPDATED: 14:43 EST, 13 March 2012

NASA has created augmented reality goggles which could soon be available to airline pilots and help them ‘see’ through fog.

The goggles can track a pilot’s head-movements and overlay runways, towers and potentially other airplanes over their view – an invaluable tool when fog rolls down across an airport.

Even as the pilot turns his head, the goggles can react in real-time to ensure the virtual representations always stay in the same place as their real-world counterparts.

Trey Arthur, an electronics engineer at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, told InnovationNewsDaily: ‘If pilots are not familiar with the airport, they have to stop and pull out maps.

‘This display, in the new world where these routes are going to be digital, can tell them what taxiway they’re on, where they need to go, where they’re headed, and how well they’re tracking the runway’s center line.’

Through the fog: The NASA glasses use augmented reality to see through adverse weather conditionsThrough the fog: An example of how the NASA glasses can use augmented reality to see through adverse weather conditions

While many planes have displays on-board which can display similar information, the ability to shrink the technology into glasses and merge the information with a pilot’s real-world view is an innovation that could potentially stop disasters.

Foggy runways can prove a real danger, and the worst accident in aviation history occurred in the fog in Tenerife in 1977.

A packed jumbo jet accelerated towards take-off straight into another passenger-filled plane which was parked on the runway, killing 583 people.

Arthur said: ‘If the fog is in and you can’t see the tower or certain parts of the airport, we would draw that on the display as well if it would enhance situational awareness.’

Kit in close-up: The GPS, sensor, head-worn display (HWD), and the image processorKit in close-up: The GPS, sensor, head-worn display (HWD), and the image processor

The glasses work by monitoring paper markers distributed around the cockpit.

By using these markers and an in-built gyroscope, similar to the one found in recent smartphones, the glasses can work out the pilot’s perspective and overlay the visual layout as well as airspeed, altitude and orientation, on top.

InnovationNewsDaily reported that test pilots rated the glasses above the displays currently used on-board, and NASA has now offered the technology to ccommercial operators.


Posted on March 14, 2012, in Science / Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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