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Nov 27, 2023 | 09:17 pm 490 0

Night vision in civil aviation of the future


Night vision in civil aviation of the future

People always try to speed up all the processes occurring in their lives. It was this desire that led to the emergence of civil aviation. It makes it possible to quickly cover vast distances and reach the desired point on the world map. With the growing popularity of air transport, the number of daily flights has increased, which is why many of them are carried out at night. Such flights were made possible thanks to night vision, which is actively used on all modern airplanes and helicopters. In the future, its impact on night flights will become even more significant. How exactly this will happen, you will learn from our guide.

How is night vision used in civil aviation today?

For a long time, night vision was only available on military aircraft. It enabled pilots to make night flights and complete assigned tasks. It was not until 2003 that various systems using night vision technology were installed on civil aircraft. They were gradually modernized and have become essential to a safe and comfortable flight. They are used on all airplanes and helicopters, without exception, that fly at night.

Nowadays, the so-called enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) is most widely used in civil aviation. It is an improved version of the original design and differs from it in obtaining a better image in the dark. EFVS consists of dedicated night vision devices and a variety of auxiliary sensors. All of them can be located in different parts of the airplane and helicopter (depending on the model) and configured by the characteristics of air transport. Thanks to advanced technologies, it is possible to display a clear and bright image on the display located in the cockpit.

In some cases, it may be further processed using artificial intelligence. This will make it even better and more detailed. The generated image is complemented by various visual cues, simplifying the pilot’s task as much as possible.

The modern version of EFVS is equipped with a powerful night camera, which is mounted in the nose of the aircraft. It helps create and transmit an image to the display with minimal time delay. This allows pilots to see the actual situation and take the necessary actions to control the aircraft safely. EFVS is activated during all phases of flight. However, it becomes essential during takeoff and landing. At both of these stages, the pilot is able, even in complete darkness or in terrible weather, to distinguish lines on the runway, landing lights, various natural (hills, mountains) or artificial obstacles (other airplanes and helicopters, multiple structures, high-voltage wires, multi-story buildings, etc.).

Night vision systems used on airplanes and helicopters are the standard of reliability and durability. They are regularly checked and maintained by dozens of specialists. However, they are equipment that can suddenly fail at any moment. Many civil aviation pilots carry night vision goggles to avoid being left alone in the dark when such a situation arises. These devices are used primarily in critical cases when the equipment built into the control system fails or, for some reason, cannot provide good visibility. 

In some cases, glasses are used to get a better view. They are placed on the pilot’s head and make monitoring events around him possible. In addition, this option will allow you to observe without having to take your eyes off the situation in front of the plane and redirect it to the monitor.

Benefits of using night vision in civil aviation

Today, night vision is a critical technology that makes flying at night possible. It opens up new horizons for pilots and brings enormous benefits. The situation is unlikely to change for the worse in the future. On the contrary, the parallel development of night vision and aviation will make their symbiosis even closer. This will positively impact many aspects and, perhaps, change our understanding of civil aviation flights.

Benefits of using night vision today and in the future:

  1. Increased security. The main thing that night vision does is it makes it possible to reduce the number of plane crashes. This is achieved by increasing the flight safety of civil aircraft and helicopters. By being able to see and navigate at night and during the day, pilots can avoid various obstacles and dangers. This eliminates the risk of emergencies due to poor visibility and weather surprises. In the future, night vision will become even more advanced. Thanks to this, the safety of civil aviation flights will increase to the maximum.
  2. Increase in passenger traffic. The popularity of air transport is growing every year. In this regard, night flights gradually became not an exception for us but a commonplace. This is made possible by night vision, which provides the pilot with better and excellent visibility in the dark. Full use of this technology leads to a reduction in the number of delayed or canceled flights. This positively affects the accuracy of compliance with all flight schedules and increases the total number of passengers transported. Further development of night vision could make safe flights possible in any weather and the most challenging lighting conditions.
  3. Empowerment. Night vision has opened up new possibilities for the use of civil aviation. Thanks to him, airplanes and helicopters began to perform various tasks that previously could only be carried out during daylight hours. Thus, specially trained air transport began to extinguish large-scale fires around the clock, patrol the territory at night, conduct continuous search and rescue operations, and participate in various research missions. Night vision also enabled night aerial photography of numerous sporting events (auto racing, motorcycle racing), cultural events (open-air concerts), and much more. The gradual modernization of night technologies will make their impact on civil aviation flights even stronger. This will maximize opportunities and allow air transport to be used to achieve other ambitious goals.
  4. Economic benefits. The use of night vision on civil aircraft and helicopters provides an opportunity for airlines to increase their financial income. This is not only due to the mentioned increase in passenger traffic but also to the reduction in costs. The latter arise due to delays and cancellations of flights, as well as other problems for which passengers are provided financial compensation. In addition, night vision reduces the number of minor accidents and eliminates the need to repair the consequences of damage received by air transport frequently. In the following decades, modern technologies can make another leap in development. This will open up new opportunities for airlines to earn additional income.
  5. Increased comfort. A significant advantage of night vision in civil aviation is the ability to maximize pilot comfort. Thanks to the introduction of modern technology, they gain additional confidence when operating night flights. This has a positive effect on their condition and the safety of passengers. In addition, night vision simplifies the orientation process for pilots, giving them complete control over the situation (lower stress levels and less fatigue). Further developments in this area will make managing air transport simpler, safer, and more comfortable. This will help get rid of most accidents caused by the pilot.

The future of night vision in civil aviation

The popularity of various air transport these days is a proven fact. It is often used even for very short flights, where a bus or train could easily replace a trip. The secret of the success and demand of air transport lies in its ability to deliver passengers to their destinations as quickly as possible. This is very important for businessmen, athletes, travelers, and representatives of many other fields of activity. The popularity of civil aircraft and helicopters will only increase every year. This is facilitated by the constant acceleration of the rhythm of our lives and the increase in close ties between representatives of different continents. In this regard, air transport may increase the number of passengers transported. Naturally, the future fate of civil aviation is inextricably linked with night vision technologies. As they develop, they will increase their impact on night flights and the work of pilots in low-light conditions.

The main direction of future development of various night vision devices will undoubtedly be creating more universal models capable of coping with any task. This will maximize the capabilities of users and open up new horizons for them. The universalization of night vision devices will undoubtedly affect the field of civil aviation. It will use the most advanced developments that will successfully pass the testing stage. In theory, more versatile night optics could allow airplane and helicopter pilots to fly even in deplorable lighting conditions (for example, zero visibility due to adverse weather conditions). However, to achieve this goal, you will need ultra-modern equipment that will go through the stage of adaptation to operation in the most challenging situations (low temperatures at high altitudes, severe wind conditions, exposure to precipitation, etc.). This process will take some time, so in the next 5-6 years, there is practically no opportunity to see more universal night optics on various aircraft. However, there is no doubt that it will become available for airplanes and helicopters used in civil aviation.

A significant trend in developing all-night vision systems is gradually reducing their dimensions and weight. Every year, the devices included will become more compact and lighter. This will positively impact the use of such systems in civil aviation. They will take up minimal space on the aircraft's fuselage and not create an advantage in one direction (observed when night equipment is unevenly distributed). Thanks to this feature, controlling airplanes and helicopters will become easier. Also, reducing the size of night vision systems mounted directly on aircraft fuselage will reduce air resistance. This will positively impact many aspects, from flight speed to fuel consumption. In cases where night vision systems are installed inside the aircraft, reducing the size of the various devices will provide additional space for installing other valuable equipment for the pilot.

Night vision systems used in civil aviation can quickly process information and provide it to the pilot with minimal time delays. However, the speed limit for such processes has yet to be reached. As a result, engineers will work over the next few years to further minimize the delay between receiving data and displaying it on the cockpit display. If significant progress can be made, the image generated by night vision devices will be processed as quickly as possible and available for viewing. This, in turn, will enable the pilot to monitor the situation in real-time and respond promptly to any changes. This direction of development of night vision systems will be significant for helicopter pilots. They often fly at low altitudes, where the risk of colliding with various obstacles is always relatively high. The ability to receive images without delays will allow them to respond quickly to the situation and make the necessary maneuvers promptly. Airplanes will also be included in attention. Such future innovations will help them improve the safety of the takeoff, climb, descent, and landing process.

Manufacturers of anything try to make their products as durable as possible. In this aspect, the creators of night vision systems used in civil aviation are no exception. She experiments a lot and gradually achieves an increase in the service life of devices. In our time, this process has yet to reach its maximum, so in the coming years, new solutions may emerge in this direction. The potential increase in durability of systems used in aviation will allow airlines to operate them on their aircraft for a long time, thereby realizing substantial cost savings. The extra money can be spent on further modernization or paid attention to dozens of other essential aspects. Another benefit that airlines will receive from increasing the life of night vision systems is the ability to reduce the frequency of inspection of such equipment. The only thing that remains to be clarified is how to increase durability. Most often, experts express the version about using new materials, which in terms of their characteristics will be significantly better than their predecessors.

An important direction in developing the symbiosis of night vision and civil aviation will be the desire to maximize image quality. In the future, this aspect will be given even more attention since the quality of the image generated by the equipment directly affects the safety of flights. A tremendous amount of work is already being done to achieve this goal, gradually giving the desired result. Improved quality can be achieved by improving the night vision equipment itself. This process does not stop for a minute, so you won’t have to wait long for a serious breakthrough. Theoretically, in the near future, advanced night vision systems could be installed on all airplanes and helicopters, creating images with minimal noise and other defects. If everything happens as planned, then very soon, it will be possible to achieve ideal quality even in the most difficult operating conditions of the equipment. Having such an image available to the pilot will allow him to see all the details clearly. This will reduce the likelihood of him making erroneous decisions, which will positively impact the safety of night flights.

The first-night vision systems, which were installed on airplanes and helicopters operating in civil aviation, were produced by only one company. For a long time, it was a monopolist, but today, it has many competitors capable of creating high-quality, reliable, and durable equipment. The emergence of competition has led to the need to fight for customers. To win their attention, manufacturers of night devices used in aviation began to reduce prices. This allowed public and private airlines to install inexpensive equipment on all aircraft. In the future, new strong players are expected to appear on the market, increasing competition and making night vision even more accessible. The low price will enable airlines to purchase the most modern devices that operate more efficiently and maximize the safety of night flights.

One of the most promising areas of development is the combination of night vision and thermal imaging capabilities. Already today, the first devices appear capable of creating a combined image. On it, the user can see clear outlines of various objects, making their identification as simple as possible. The military is testing such developments, and they are used exclusively on the ground. However, there is no doubt that if successful, practical innovations will be introduced into the operation of night vision systems used in military and civil aviation. With such devices, pilots can quickly distinguish any buildings and natural obstacles against the general background. Theoretically, this will happen even in cases where the quality of the existing image becomes far from ideal. The ability to detect and identify various objects quickly will give the pilot enough time to make the necessary maneuvers and avoid collisions. Also, such an innovation can improve the safety of passengers during takeoff and landing.

Various innovations expand the functionality of night vision devices. This happens constantly, and there is no point in stopping this process. However, each innovation increases the number of settings, making adapting equipment to current operating conditions a complex task. If we consider that the expansion of functionality will continue for quite a long time, then very soon, it will be necessary to complete special courses to control night optics. To prevent this from happening, modern equipment manufacturers try to simplify the user’s work in every possible way. For this purpose, pre-compiled settings options appear, each intended for specific operating conditions of night optics. In addition, the process of activating and deactivating various functions is simplified. Something similar is expected to happen with night vision systems used in civil aviation. The method of controlling them will gradually become more straightforward and more understandable, which will positively impact the quality of work of pilots with such equipment. This will entail the ability to quickly adapt night optics to weather, lighting, and visibility changes. Everyone will benefit from this. Pilots can use modern night-time equipment comfortably, and passengers can fly safely at any time of the day.

Nowadays, night vision systems are adapted to air transport capabilities, not vice versa. This is because many small airlines use outdated aircraft not originally equipped with night vision devices. This feature creates specific difficulties, but it will disappear as the air transport fleet is updated. In this regard, various aircraft models are expected to be adapted to modern night vision systems at the design stage. This will allow you to consider many different parameters that can directly or indirectly affect the quality of equipment operation. This approach will make the aircraft initially adapted to night flights, thereby increasing the comfort of pilots and the safety of passengers being transported.

The last important aspect that will receive the most attention in the future is the training of pilots and their activity in the new capabilities of night optics. This process must go in parallel with the development of equipment. Otherwise, a situation may arise in which modern night vision systems will use only 50%-60% of their capabilities. Today, the pilot training process includes the need to pass a test on the ability to use night optics. Based on its results, the country's national aviation authorities issue a special license, without which night vision devices remain prohibited on civil flights. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration deals with these issues in the United States. It establishes specific criteria that pilots and the airlines that hire them must meet. Over the next few years, significant changes are expected in many aspects related to candidate preparation and screening. Most likely, they will open access to night vision only to those who can adequately maintain such equipment, fulfill all the requirements established for it, manage different models of devices, and quickly adapt to various innovations.

Night vision plays a vital role in modern civil aviation. It makes all flights safer and more comfortable for pilots and passengers. However, night vision continues to evolve, and its integration into the aviation industry is only accelerating. In this regard, in the coming years, we should expect many important innovations that will have a positive impact on the work of civil aviation. It has yet to be determined precisely what these innovations will be, but there is no doubt that they will improve the quality of night flights and reduce the number of plane crashes.


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