Low lying obstacles present immediate danger to both military and civilian helicopters performing low-altitude flight missions. A LADAR obstacle detection system is the natural solution for enhancing helicopter safety and improving the pilot situation awareness. Elop is currently developing an advanced Surveillance and Warning Obstacle Ranging and Display (SWORD) system for the Israeli Air Force. Several key factors and new concepts have contributed to system optimization. These include an adaptive FOV, data memorization, autonomous obstacle detection and warning algorithms and the use of an agile laser transmitter. In the present work we describe the laser design and performance and discuss some of the experimental results. Our eye-safe laser is characterized by its pulse energy, repetition rate and pulse length agility. By dynamically controlling these parameters, we are able to locally optimize the system’s obstacle detection range and scan density in accordance with the helicopter instantaneous maneuver.
The relation between obstacle detection LADAR parameters (Detection Range, <i>FOV</i> and <i>FOR</i>) and obstacle detection time in various flight scenarios is analyzed in this work. We show how these engineering parameters can be chosen in order to comply with the operational requirements for a minimum detection time that will enable the helicopter pilot to perform a corresponding obstacle-evasion maneuver. This method was implemented during the development of ElOp's LORD system.