Visualization through common obscurants such as fog, rain, smoke, and haze represents a difficulty for many industries as well as the military.
Within the next 20 years, the FAA expects air traffic operations to increase by 150-250%. Currently,
helicopter pilots have great difficulty seeing their landing site due to bad weather or rotor wash.
Heavy rain, dense fog, and smoky environments make it difficult for the pilots for judge exactly where the landing pad is. First responders are entering fire scenes blindly, as thermal imagers currently in use are often “blinded” by the thermal bloom of the fire. In addition, objects or impediments with no thermal signature, such as downed wires or holes in the floor are completely obscured by the smoke and fire, making the fire scene more treacherous.
RL Associates, Inc. has designed a LIDAR system, based on our patented range-gating technology. The Laser Imaging through Obscurants (LITO) system is an eye-safe imaging system that uses range-gating, our narrowband optical filters and polarization discrimination to allow for visualization through obscurants such as rain, fog, smoke, and haze.
This will allow pilots to better visualize the target landing site by “looking through” the obscurants to the target. This system will also allow pilots more time to react if there is a hazard on the landing site and to avoid the problem of vertigo caused by rotor wash.
LITO will give first responders/fire fighters the ability to visualize not only victims stuck behind the fire, but also aspects of their surroundings (steps, obstructions, missing floors, fallen objects in path, etc) that are obscured by the glare and thermal bloom of the fire and the scattering of light by the smoke.
This LITO system could also be used remotely from outside of the building or structure to provide the first responder a much better understanding of the situation at hand.
To date, R.L. Associates has developed a long-range 4 km vision system for use aboard airplanes, as well as a back-pack system for first responders capable of seeing several meters.