REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is currently taking part in the European NATO Degraded Visual Environment Flight Trials Event in Germany and Switzerland.

Operations in DVE are the primary contributing factor to most Army aviation accidents over the last decade. In Germany, the testing will focus on rain and fog elements, while the Switzerland test will focus on snow and whiteout environments. Test pilots and engineers will gather research data regarding integrated flight control, pilot cueing and sensor technologies.

AMRDEC's Aviation Development Directorate is the lead executing agency and is supplying the majority of equipment and personnel. The effort includes AMRDEC's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, the Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Lab and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.

The European Flight Trials allow collaboration with German and Swiss test pilots and engineers through immersion in the cockpit environment, while piloting German, Swiss and U.S. DVE-M systems from the evaluation pilot stations.

In addition to AMRDEC's EH-60L, a Swiss EC635 and a German DLR EC135 are participating. Two U.S. test pilots completed Quality Evaluations in the German DLR EC135 equipped with the dynamic Transition to Hover guidance against a raised obstacle in the dropping zone. Three U.S. test pilots completed QEs in the Swiss EC635 equipped with the SFERION enroute guidance and landing zone symbology along the low level route and to the obstacle zone.

Test pilots from all participating nations including Britain, Switzerland, Germany and the U.S. will conduct quality evaluations in each other's aircraft to compare the systems. "These very experienced, non-U.S. pilots averaged 22 years of military service and had accumulated flight hours ranging from 2,000 to 7,800 with 1,500 hours of glass cockpit experience," said Major Paul Flanigen, assistant program manager, Research, Development and Engineering Command Rotorcraft DVE-M AMRDEC ADD.

"All of the systems demonstrated performed well in certain areas and could use improvements in other areas. By looking at several different systems, each team could find ways to improve their own system and improve safety and capability across the NATO team," said Maj. Joe S. Minor, program manager, Experimental Test Pilot RDECOM Rotorcraft DVE-M AMRDEC ADD.

The first priority is taking advantage of enroute precipitation and whiteout hover and landing opportunities. Flight testing in Germany is focused on flying under very special Visual Flight Rules in Instrument Meteorological Conditions. Flight testing in Switzerland is focused on conducting approaches to landing and hover at a landing site in the Alps where they expect heavy snow and helicopter-induced whiteout conditions.

The second priority is obtaining qualitative evaluations from experienced Swiss and German test pilots in DVE. "This event offers a potential for ample data gathering with a DVE-M system not previously flown in precipitation, using guidance unevaluated during flight into, through and out of precipitation-induced DVE," said Flanigen. Subsequent technical interchanges will discuss requirements, methodologies and the ability to incorporate them into future DVE-M solutions.

Members of NATO and Partnership for Peace witnessed DVE flight trials conducted at Yuma Proving Ground in September 2016. Previous flight testing has examined system performance in the final portion of approaches to landing or hover in dust.

All pilots who completed a QE completed an in person video debriefing followed by a detailed computerized questionnaire very similar to the one completed by test pilots during the recent Yuma flight trials. This survey version also included questions from the NATO Industrial Advisory Group questionnaire. "Overall, the QEs completed in Germany almost tripled the amount of test pilot feedback on the current version of Integrated Cuing Environment, collective coupling and Sierra Nevada Corporation sensor," said Flanigen.

"AMRDEC's presence at the NATO flight trials, along with CERDEC and Army Research Labs, has enabled the U.S. participants to demonstrate the research and development work done by RDECOM over the last decade to permit rotorcraft operations in degraded visual environments," said Minor.

Gathering their comments with the structured survey methodology previously used during trials at YPG creates the potential to greatly increase insight into the effectiveness of the DVE-M system. These comments will also provide additional insight into the training required to operate the DVE-M system.

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The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.