Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor flies with integrated system that gives crew 360-degree view

Bell’s experimental V-280 Valor tiltrotor, built for a U.S. Army technology demonstration, has flown for the first time with an integrated system that provides the pilots and aircrew a 360-degree view through the skin of the aircraft.

At the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual summit, Lockheed Martin displayed footage collected from its Pilotage Distributed Aperture System’s first flight over central Texas on the V-280.

PDAS “is the first fully integrated tactical distributed aperture system in the history of vertical lift,” Rita Flaherty, Lockheed Martin vice president of strategy and business development within its Missiles and Fire Control business, said at the summit.

The company has a long line of firsts when it comes to multifunctional sensor systems, she said, to include developing and fielding the first electro-optical targeting system for rotary-wing aircraft — which has been on the AH-64 since its inception. That system is a combination of a targeting sensor, an electro-optical day sensor, and a pilotage capability, which are all fused with a fire control radar.

“But in the next generation of vertical lift, we turned our attention to a multifunctional, situational-awareness pilotage threat-warning capability suite to develop and bring forward for future vertical lift,” Flaherty said.

The Army is developing a digital backbone for its future family of vertical lift aircraft that could transform procurement across the service.

Lockheed teamed up with Bell in 2013 to integrate the system into the V-280, prior to Lockheed’s acquisition of Sikorsky in 2015, which is working with Boeing on a competing technology demonstrator — the SB-1 Defiant.

V-280′s first flight was in December 2017.