Story by Douglas Halleaux on 07/02/2018DETROIT ARSENAL, MICHIGANHelmet-mounted stereo vision sounds like a solution for fighter jets, but Department of Defense engineers and industry experts are rooting this technology on the ground.
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's center for ground vehicle systems, TARDEC, working with Honeywell Aerospace, installed a prototype helmet-mounted stereo vision system previously developed under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program into a Bradley Fighting Vehicle this past week.
The Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center's engineers regularly seek solutions for effective "closed-hatch" operations. That is, driving an armored vehicle with the top hatches closed in order to provide better protection for the crew. In its current configuration, the Bradley can only be driven closed-hatch with the driver peering through mirrored sights with a limited field of view.
Taking on the task is TARDEC's Mission Enabling Technologies-Demonstrator (MET-D) team, engineers who install forward-leaning technologies like high-resolution 360 situational awareness sensors, cutting-edge communications, unmanned aerial vehicles and more onto modified vehicle platforms. The team then operates these demonstration platforms in a variety of conditions and simulated operations to gauge how well the technology enhances Soldier mission effectiveness.
The MET-D team pursued adding the Honeywell Aerospace technology, developed for the GXV-T program, to an existing suite of 360-degree situational awareness sensors to complete the driving experience. The system includes an array of forward facing stereo camera pairs whose imagery is projected into the left and right eye of the user through a pair of holographic optical elements allowing them to perceive depth while showing a wide field of regard without causing nausea or eye strain.
"This is an incremental step in simulating direct sight conditions," says Troy Tava, TARDEC's project manager for MET-D. "It may possibly be the x-factor' for fully operational closed hatch driving."
Adding to the forward facing depth sensors are a combination of standard and fish-eye lens cameras to provide complimentary views of the vehicle's perimeter position and mid-range detection.
"The system allows us to compare 3 dimensional imagery controlled by advanced head tracker movements against multiple, conventional 2 dimensional vehicle mounted displays," says Tava. "This is an area of interest and study to help inform driving solutions for future combat vehicles. With the headset on and the system operating, the driver can interpret the distance of passing objects and negative obstacles."
This installation effort is intended to demonstrate a proof-of-concept for closed-hatch driving using high resolution stereo vision combined with advanced head tracking technology integrated into a helmet mounted display.
"This really is a great example of government and industry teaming to develop capability solutions that will enable overmatch for our current and future force," says Bill Hancock, Honeywell Aerospace project engineer.
The team is scheduled to continue testing throughout the summer.
Headquartered at the U.S. Army Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Mich., TARDEC is a major research, development and engineering center for the Army Materiel Command's Research, Development and Engineering Command, and is an enterprise partner in the TACOM LCMC.
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