Helicopter pilots can experience reduced visual feedback when landing in dusty areas (known as brownout). Non-visual tactile aids (vests with arrays of vibrating motors) have been used to supplement the pilot’s sense of spatial orientation in Tactile Situational Awareness Systems (TSAS), but current actuator technology limits the amount of information transmitted. For the Naval Air Warfare Center and NAVAIR, we will develop a novel tactor actuator, called a Variable Compliance Tactor (VCT), which can actively change its mechanical compliance. This will allow improved tactor efficiency as well as increasing the range of frequencies and amplitudes possible. Incorporating VCTs into a Tactile Situational Awareness System will increase the information delivered to Navy and other helicopter pilots, enhancing their sense of spatial orientation and greatly reducing risk during dangerous brownout operations.


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