Obstacle Cable and Terrain Avoidance System (OCTAS) showcased for rotorcraft


July 21, 2006

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July 22, 2006 BAE Systems has developed a day/night, all-weather, all-obscurant capability that enables helicopter pilots to fly safely and avoid obstacles, including cables, in darkness, bad weather, and brown-out conditions. The Obstacle Cable and Terrain Avoidance System (OCTAS), being demonstrated this week at the Farnborough International Airshow, combines a Radar Cable Detection (RCD) system with BAE Systems’ TERPROM terrain avoidance system and a pilot display. It offers a low-cost way to significantly improve pilot situational awareness and can be expanded through addition of other sensors and capabilities to suit specific missions.

“Helicopters are susceptible to accidents due to loss of visual situational awareness caused by darkness or the presence of fog, rain, dust, smoke, and other obscurants,” said Tom Herring, vice president and general manager of Integrated Solutions for BAE Systems in Los Angeles. “OCTAS is designed to help our war fighters ease their work load and increase safety and effectiveness.”

The RCD detects obstacles — including extremely hazardous wires and cables — in the helicopter’s flight path. The system provides three-dimensional information on the aircraft’s location using TERPROM, a predictive terrain profile mapping system. While the core OCTAS will affordably overcome the majority of situational awareness challenges that helicopter pilots face, spiral expansions can meet more specialized needs, Herring said.

For example:

* Adding a 94-gigahertz imaging radar to further improve visibility in “brownouts” caused by sandstorms or the sand kicked up from the rotor wash during desert landings. * Use of LADAR (laser radar) to improve cable detection capability. * Adding infrared sensors to provide better images in clear or hazy conditions. * Digital maps that provide a moving, three-dimensional terrain view and help map areas for hostile threats. * A high-resolution, binocular, helmet-mounted display system — derived from the helmet employed on the Eurofighter Typhoon — that gives pilots 360-degree visibility. * Active control stick technology that provides pilot feedback through dynamically variable tactile cues.

Elements of OCTAS have been evaluated both independently and by the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Battle Labs and have demonstrated the ability to see through fog, sand, dust, smoke, and other battlefield obscurants.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, (Australia's largest Telco), (Australia's largest employment site),,, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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