Degraded Visual Environments (DVEs) are a leading contributor to rotorcraft accidents and reduced operational effectiveness. They occur when visibility conditions are reduced to the point where situational awareness and aircraft control cannot be maintained as comprehensively as they are in normal visual meteorological conditions. Categories of DVE include smoke, fog, rain, darkness, and brownout (a helicopter induced dust cloud due to the downwash of the rotor system).
Current Army investigations into DVE mitigation solutions are comprised of three elements: improved flight controls, sensors and cueing symbology. In the area of sensors, C5ISR Center NVESD engineers have discovered how to exploit a region of the infrared spectrum to image through moderate to heavy brownout conditions. In 2013, NVESD continued development and demonstration of the infrared camera to include flight experimentation on a Blackhawk helicopter under brownout conditions. Feedback from the pilots was that the camera imagery improved situational awareness under the majority of brownout conditions encountered. This camera technology shows great promise to be part of any future Army material solution for DVE mitigation.