February 1, 2012:
The U.S. Army is equipping ten of its UH-60 helicopters in Afghanistan with a new 3-D radar. The HALS (Helicopter Autonomous Landing System) weighs 45 kg (99 pounds) and gives the pilots a 3-D picture of what's in front of the helicopter, no matter what actual visibility is. Snow, dust, sand, fog, and night can all hide small obstacles (especially wires or poles) that can cause a crash as a helicopter is taking off or landing. In the last decade about 20 percent of army helicopter crashes have been caused by storms because the pilots could not see obstacles. In Iraq, the most common danger was "brown out" (sand storm). Fog and, in Afghanistan, snow only add to the problem.
HALS has been in development for nearly a decade and has been undergoing testing for the last four years. The ten helicopters being equipped with HALS in Afghanistan are carrying out the first sustained test of the system under combat conditions.
The manufacturer is also developing a version of HALS for use in UAVs.