Several years ago, aviation night vision goggles are only used by military and law enforcement.
Today, not anymore.
In 1999, the Federal Aviation Administration authorized the initial Supplemental Type Certificate. The STC is an authorization to use aviation night vision goggles for civilian applications.
The civilian helicopter applications include emergency medical service (EMS) and search and rescue operators.
Since then, many other civilian and commercial operators have been granted permission to use aviation night vision goggles.
In addition, guidelines were initially imposed for some updates to FAR Part 91. This is the section that would grant general aviation operators to utilize technology.
With these factors at play, more and more civilian and commercial aviation operators discover the many benefits of aviation night vision goggles.
Therefore, it’s vital that all pilots and aviation operators fully understand these night devices’ fundamental operational and functional issues.
Aid to Flying: Aviation Night Vision Goggles
Different technologies make up night vision devices. Some of these technological components include infrared radar and the actual goggles device.
In today’s post, we’ll talk about aviation NVG for commercial and civilian applications. That will be the focus of today’s post.
How do aviation night vision goggles work?
Think of a video camera. That’s the most straightforward analogy we could use to describe night vision goggles.
The basic principle and functionality behind a video camera device are this: The one using the video camera doesn’t directly see what they are looking at through the lens. Instead, they are witnessing electronic images of the scene or the environment.
Monocular and Binocular NVGs
Night vision devices are classified into two: monocular and binocular. However, when we’re talking about aviation night vision devices in the aviation field, the goggles are helmet-mounted and the binocular type.
Video cameras and night vision goggles are both considered as electro-optical equipment. Electromagnetic energy – which could either be visible or infrared – enters the goggles through the objective lens. The electromagnetic energy is typically reflected from the environment or the terrain when it is dark out.
The light energy, which contains photons, is then diverted to an electronic processing unit. This electronic processing unit is referred to as the image intensifier.
The image intensifier has several different components. One of the elements is the photocathode element. This is the element that is in charge of the light conversion. While overseeing the light photons conversion, the photocathode element residing in the image intensifier tubes does the conversion.
The light photons are transformed into electrons. These electrons then travel through the microchannel plate. This is also referred to as the MCP. It oversees the multiplication and acceleration of the microchannel plates.
After this process, the electrons then collide with the phosphor screen.
The phosphor screen is ultimately responsible for releasing the visible light. This is the light that the night vision goggles operator see emitted through the eyepiece lens.
Ultimately, this is called the focused image.
Aviation NVGs Perform Well in the Dark
Unlike video cameras and other similar devices, aviation night vision goggles don’t require light for functionality.
These night vision devices can produce images without the presence of too much light. They only need the faintest amount. Think of a faint moonlight or low-level starlight – these light levels will suffice.
However, the effectiveness of the aviation night vision equipment will be diminished under two conditions:
- Too much light
- Complete and total darkness
Civil Aviation Operators Benefit from Night Vision Goggles
The night flight missions of civil and commercial aviation operators can significantly benefit from the use of aviation night vision goggles.
However, the FAA, along with several international aviation authorities, has set the following essential components to make this scenario possible:
- Development of unique operational concepts based on the industry (search and rescue, agricultural, search and rescue, etc.)
- Hardware requirements
- Training and continuing education requirements
- Regulatory changes
- Avoiding operational oversights
Aviation experts agree that night vision goggles by civilian aircrew are acceptable and recommended under appropriate circumstances.
The concerned regulatory agency must grant special functionality approval in the use of the device. On top of that, the operators and pilots must have met the necessary training and educational requirements before using the device.
Furthermore, commercial agencies wanting to use aviation NVGs must take it upon themselves to keep abreast with the latest news in using this type of technology.
These efforts will help them better recognize the likelihood of pathologies and other disadvantages of using the device.
Further training and education will help reduce human and environmental factor issues typically encountered by the operator.
Just as essential as training is, developing the training curriculum for diverse circumstances and operators is vital.