A new helmet could save the lives of pilots who lose consciousness in extreme manoeuvres or through lack of oxygen. Matthew Stock reports.
Fighter pilots' bodies are put under enormous pressure while performing aerial manoeuvres. They can experience extreme physiological stress during sharp turns and high-speed accelerations, or possible oxygen starvation at high altitude. This new state-of-the-art helmet could save the lives of pilots who lose consciousness mid-air. Yaron Kranz is from Israel's defence electronics firm Elbit Systems, who are developing the helmet, and is himself a retired fighter pilot. He says the new system, named 'Canary', could prevent two airborne instances that have caused many crashes and deaths. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND R&D IN ELBIT SYSTEMS, YARON KRANZ, SAYING: "We are talking about two phenomena. One is 'G-LOC' or G Loss of Consciousness, and the other one is hypoxia which is lack of oxygen to the brain. Both of those phenomena can end up in case of fatality and we want to avoid it using a sensor in the helmet." If Canary senses an imminent threat, the system will flash an alert on the helmet's visor display. But if it detects that the pilot has passed out it will signal to the aircraft's computer to take control until the pilot regains consciousness. Its advanced sensing technology, from Israeli start-up LifeBEAM, is integrated into the jet's flight systems. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SENIOR DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND R&D IN ELBIT SYSTEMS, YARON KRANZ, SAYING: "The pilot doesn't have to do anything in order to activate those sensors and they are small enough and wise enough to give the information in order to gather the physiological data that is required." Elbit Systems is developing the helmet for Lockheed Martin's advanced F-35 fighter jet, and say it will be ready to market in about a year. They say Canary could also be used to monitor hypoxia on civilian aircraft with the sensor being adapted to be worn without a helmet.