The Guardian project: Reasons, concept and advantages of a novel obstacle proximity LIDAR system

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Brunetti, M.
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Helicopters are used all over the world for missions where “hovering” is the only feasible option. Among these, Emergency Medical Service and Search And Rescue stand out for the noble aim and the evident risk. This paper takes you to the realm of the EMS/SAR operations and goes through the AW Guardian Project, launched in 2009 to tackle helicopter accidents in confined space. System requirements are captured and a preliminary design is put forward, based on Light Detection and Ranging sensors. The paper explains how LIDAR sensors work and how they can benefit helicopter safety. LIDAR raw data are manipulated into a more intelligible form and system HMI is tailored on a reference cockpit. The system architecture is completed with ancillary LRUs and the system installation adapted to the AW139. Design proposal is then verified and validated through a series of ground tests, simulations and flight trials which enabled transition from TRL0 to TRL6 and even further, to system certification achieved in 2014 with EASA. The system is now a proprietary solution of AgustaWestland, a registered logo and an optional kit available on the AW139 helicopter under the name of OPLS™. When equipped with the OPLS™, pilots can rely on an invisible “eye” monitoring with superior accuracy the obstacles in plane with the main rotor disc, by day, by night, over 360°.