Case Studies

Video Distribution System for SAR Helicopter

October 28, 2015

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A large helicopter manufacturer required a video distribution system (VDS) that would accept multiple video streams, distribute the video, and perform selective video recording, on command, to various displays. Mounted on a helicopter, the VDS had to be rugged yet compact, had to provide large amounts of removable storage, and had to perform other system functions.

Because the VDS was to be used on a Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter the system needed to be rugged enough to withstand extreme environments including high shock and vibration, severe temperatures, and high levels of electrical noise. Additionally, size, weight and power (SWaP) was a factor, as is common in helicopter applications.

The VDS needed to handle HD-SDI, DVI, and other video inputs that were routed on external command, to a mixture of HD-SDI and DVI displays; the system also had to perform video format conversion. The video inputs needed to be selectively stored on command so that the stored video could be used during mission debrief to improve process and adjust training. Different SAR personnel (pilot, crew chief, etc.) needed the ability to access different information; sometimes one display had to show multiple camera inputs.

This new helicopter was designed with a network centric architecture so the VDS had to support numerous other network functions. For example, video had to be streamed out selectively via Ethernet where MPEG-2 TS was preferred and the system had to act as a network file server (or network attached storage ) for various Ethernet clients in the network. For troubleshooting and debrief, the VDS needed to be capable of capturing Ethernet traffic.


A fully qualified, rugged VDS was delivered to the customer meeting the SAR application needs. Using the VRD1 and removable memory modules, the video from multiple cameras was scaled and routed to displays and selectively stored in a low risk technical and schedule approach. As a result, each crew member was able to access critical camera feeds when needed and store video for post-mission analysis. The video distribution and recording system fit into the allowable space and provided growth for future expansion. The addition of the NAS and PCAP features to the VRD1 allowed the system designer to eliminate extra devices thus lowering SWaP.

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