When flying, fighting or landing in dangerous conditions, helicopter pilots can now use the BAE’s Q-Sight for clear, heads-up, situational awareness of everything from engine RPMs to enemy RPGs. Today’s warfighters and emergency-rescue personnel can’t control weather or their surroundings when flying helicopters, but thanks to the Q-Sight from BAE Systems they can fly with greater confidence and awareness in fog, smoke, sandstorms and tight quarters.

bae2The Q-Sight family of helmet-display products are so small and lightweight that company spokesmen clip these small viewing screens onto simple office headsets to demonstrate their versatility. Developmental models are slightly smaller than a business card, and weigh less than 10.5 ounces. However, by the time the Q-Sight is in full production the company expects they’ll weigh 5 ounces or less.

Q-Sights can be used day or night and are easily used with night-vision goggles, which snap down into position in front of them. They also have been integrated into FLIR (forward-looking infrared) sources to give pilots the heads-up, real-world information needed as they carry out their mission.

The Q-Sight clips onto almost any military or civilian flight or firefighting helmet, and offers a large exit pupil and large eye relief. Therefore, it doesn’t require fine, customized adjustments for each pilot’s eye to clearly and brightly display information. If pilots jerk their head or absorb a sudden jolt, they’re less likely to lose sight of the image.

Q-Sights prove that advanced technology can simplify design. Their “quantum technology” breakthrough in holographic imaging moves light waves from their source to the sight display more directly than ever. The result is that Q-Sights don’t require the many stacks of electronics and optics previously needed in helmet-mounted displays. Plus, their “plug-and-play” capabilities allow them to take data from almost any source and display it how and where the operator desires.

Heads Up, Eyes Out
Because of those features, BAE Systems believes the Q-Sight family delivers greater “heads-up, eyes out” situational awareness for less money than ever. And because of the Q-Sight’s small size and light weight, pilots can move more freely in the cockpit. That means less neck strain and muscle fatigue, which pilots often experience with heavier, clumsier versions of helmet-mounted displays.

John Nix, vice president of Defense Avionics for BAE System’s Platform Solutions line, spent 22 years in the U.S. Army, including 4,000 flight hours in rotary-wing aircraft. Therefore, he values a lightweight, reliable, easy-to-read flight display. “I know the importance of having symbology readily displayed so you always know your horizon, headings, torque and altitude,” he said. “Those are things that, historically, pilots always had to look back inside the cockpit to get. The crux of the Q-Sight is to provide pilots heads-up, eyes-out situational awareness at all times.”

Nix said those factors become dangerously complicated when flying on dark nights or in foggy conditions over land or water, and in sandstorms or brownouts caused by whipped-up dust during landings. “One problem often encountered in military operating environments like Iraq or Afghanistan are these heartbreaking stories of guys driving one of these things into the ground,” he said. “Anytime you have degraded visual environments, it inhibits aviators from seeing the horizon in relation of the aircraft to the ground or water. It’s easy to overlook a problem on their instruments when they’re concentrating on conditions outside the cockpit. The Q-Sight keeps all the necessary information readily available. They aren’t looking back and forth, from inside the cockpit to outside the cockpit.”

Nix expects civilian pilots will also clamor for the Q-Sight, especially those involved in emergency helicopter services for firefighting or medical flights. “When you’re flying or landing in an ‘unprepared environment,’ that is, an area unknown to you, you need to be outside the cockpit looking for wires, towers, power poles, trees or unplotted obstacles,” Nix said. “You can’t be coming back inside the cockpit to check your power settings, altitude, rate of closure, and those types of things. You need that information in front of your eyeball at all times.”

Endless Application Possibilities
As the Q-Sight moves toward full-scale production, Nix foresees endless possibilities for it. For instance, door and tail-gunners can hook into their weapon’s thermal-imaging sights with the Q-Sight for uninterrupted sight pictures—in contrast to firing weapons with night-vision goggles that cut out when detecting bright muzzle flashes.

Elsewhere, soldiers on the ground could hook the Q-Sight to their weapon’s thermal-image sight. This would allow them to point the weapon around corners and use the Q-Sight to see what appears in the weapon’s sight.

Nix also is talking with firefighters and rescue personnel who want to connect Q-Sights to hand-held thermal-detection scanners when searching for victims in smoke-filled rooms. Instead of keeping their eye on the scanner’s LCD screen, they’d see everything through the Q-Sight. 

Those are just some possibilities already within reach of the Q-Sight. BAE Systems is also exploring how to incorporate the technology in curved visors, which means the equivalent of sunglasses, could one day display these vital data.

In other words, the warfighter’s world is not only getting smaller. It’s getting safer.

For more information about the Q-Sight family of heads-up displays, visit

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