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24 September 2009 Cockpit to helmet optical wireless link: prototype hardware demonstration
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This paper describes recent progress in developing a wireless optical link between the fuselage of a cockpit and an aviation helmet. Such a link is desired to replace the physical umbilical cable existing in current cockpit systems, for reasons of potential bandwidth, immunity to EM interference, and freedom from physical constraints within the cockpit. The link concept consists of multiple transmitters embedded in the cockpit fuselage, each sending video (or symbology) data out in a cone of light over free space, which is detected by an array of receivers positioned on the helmet - the data is then sent to the eyepieces or visor of the pilot (after any intermediate processing). The design is such that one of these links is always maintained throughout possible movement of the head. In a recent proof-of-principle demonstration we showed uncompressed, 100 Mbps video data streamed live from the fuselage of a cockpit simulator to an angled cluster of silicon-based receivers mounted on the helmet, via a pair of ~1 Watt free-space lasers operating at 810 nm. Fast Ethernet media converters were used here for convenience and cost. The bespoke optical and electrical link components were developed in close collaboration with suppliers. The system performance arises from: the high dynamic range of the receivers (up to 25 dB), which are equipped with optical antennae to magnify the optical gain; the high power of the lasers; and the switching electronics used to control the signal path on the helmet. Future potential improvements to the technology are discussed, with an indication of wireless link requirements for relevant BAE Systems applications.
© (2009) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
M. A. Watson, H. J. White, N. B. Aldridge, J. Lam, and R. Atkinson "Cockpit to helmet optical wireless link: prototype hardware demonstration", Proc. SPIE 7480, Unmanned/Unattended Sensors and Sensor Networks VI, 74800J (24 September 2009);

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