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NHIndustries has selected Thales’ TopOwl digital display helmet for the special forces variant of the NH90 helicopter.

Developed to meet a French request, the variant will derive several benefits from the Thales solution, which uses augmented reality (AR) to enhance aircrew operational capability, particularly in highly degraded visual environments, such as brownout, whiteout, fog and dark night operations. TopOwl has also been selected for the Standard 3 upgrade of the TIGER combat helicopter being developed jointly by France, Germany and Spain.

The helmet has been in service since 2005, proving itself in multiple operational theatres. The new digital generation offers higher-definition rendering and live lossless video streaming, leveraging the latest digital technologies. It is also cybersecure by design. TopOwl Digital Display reduces pilot fatigue and enables crews to cooperate more efficiently – crucial to success on difficult missions – by displaying information in the pilot’s line of sight and incorporating a spatialised audio alert system and ambient noise reduction technology. It also offers superior flight safety functionality for non-line-of-sight operations, using a combination of AR, synthetic terrain data and information from 2D and 3D cameras and other sensors.

The customised system tailors the helmet to each pilot, with the latest generation being further refined for easier integration, lower power consumption and lighter overall weight. The simplified connection cables make it easier for crew to exit the helicopter in an emergency, especially in the event of ditching at sea.

Designed with pilots, [the] TopOwl Digital Display incorporates the very latest technologies and draws on operational feedback from the theatres in which the first-generation TopOwl has been deployed. It is a decisive asset in terms of both flight safety and the operational capabilities of helicopters today,” commented Christian Bardot, Thales’ Flight Avionics Programme Director.

Special Forces aircrew will benefit from the enhanced capabilities of the latest-generation TopOwl Digital Display helmet system. (Photo: Thales)

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