Defense contractors from Phoenix to Hartford, Conn. are trying to solve one of the military’s most dangerous problems in desert warfare: helicopters landing and taking off safely during sandstorms.
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. said Wednesday it has been awarded more than $10 million toward a $16.6 million contract to work on the project with Honeywell and Sierra Nevada Corp., an electronics engineering and manufacturing business in Sparks, Nev.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded the contract as part of its “Sandblaster” program to develop and demonstrate solutions for landing in conditions known as brownouts that leave pilots disoriented.
Jim O’Leary, a spokesman for Honeywell in Phoenix, said the company will design a screen in the cockpit that will replicate for pilots a view of a clear day regardless of the weather conditions.
Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said downdrafts from helicopters landing in desert terrain or during severe rain and snowstorms often blind pilots, causing collisions and roll-overs.
Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. in Hartford, is the project’s lead company.
“In developing the Sandblaster proposal, we didn’t look for just a one-dimensional solution but rather a complete package of integrated sensors, pilot vehicle interface and flight controls to address the problem,” said Peter Grant of Sikorsky.