Augmented Reality to Support Helicopter Pilots Hovering in Brownout Conditions

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Augmented reality displays are a promising means to improve the safety of helicopter hovering in brownout conditions. However, previous research has often combined conformal with non-conformal elements in such displays, potentially leading to visual clutter. In this paper, two purely conformal displays are proposed, and their effectiveness is compared with a baseline condition in good visibility depicting the ADS-33 hover course. The first display contains a grid ground texture and a box indicating the hover target position; the second bears close resemblance to the ADS-33 course. Two pilots participated in a simulator experiment in which the effects of display configuration and vehicle dynamics on hover performance, control activity, pilot workload and situation awareness were examined. Results show that performance similar to that in good visibility can be achieved with the grid display, although workload and situation awareness deteriorated. Performance with the second display was worse, likely due to lack of available optic flow. Linear vehicle dynamics led to lower workload than a non-linear model, but not to better performance. For future research, it is recommended to improve availability of longitudinal positioning cues in the grid display, and to investigate the usefulness of that display also in good visibility.