Icarus: IMC Simulation on the Fly

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One of the pleasures of walking exhibition hall floors is to come upon mainly unheralded S&T technology “nuggets” that are entering service in the aviation community.

Such is the case with the Icarus (Instrument Conditions Awareness Recognition and Understanding System). Nick Sinopli, the firm’s founder, noted Icarus is a “smart view limiting device” that helps improve pilot training proficiency and to train for inadvertent entry into IMC (instrument meteorological conditions.)

While the device is able to immerse the wearer in IMC operations, the technology base is expanding to include smoke in the cabin and even flying in “brownout conditions.”

Working in lockstep with Helicopter Institute, Madison, Wisconsin-based Icarus supports training at different mission levels, in particular “if you go into IMC or UIMC [unintended flight into IMC], and how you get yourself out of it,” the dual-rated aviator said.

Sinopli added, “What Icarus allows you to do is have a simulator to the best degree possible in the aircraft – it’s basically a flying simulator. You get all the inner ear inputs and other effects of flying – the smells, the pressures and knowledge that you are flying through the air at 100-plus miles per hour. And you also get that “visual representation that, ‘hey, you just lost everything outside the cockpit.’”

The loss of situational awareness is enabled by instructors gradually changing the opacity of the helmet-mounted visor using a smart-phone app (IOS and Android) to allow students to practice entry into IMC events safely and effectively. The Icarus visor (weight of 2.5 oz - 0.7 kg) is fitted to a specific airframe and instrument panel to ensure the highest fidelity visual cues during a scenario.

While Sinopli initially envisioned Icarus for onboard, operational use, he noted there are aspects which expand the device’s use case into ground-based flight training devices.

Icarus was designed to be affordable: US$1500 per system.

The product’s 2022 roadmap include expanding its sales in and beyond the US in the commercial market, as “bad weather does not discriminate,” the executive wryly noted. Further, Sinopli is seeking to enter the defense sector and mature the NVG-combined device; he is actively demonstrating Icarus to prospective defense customers.

About 125 articles are in service in the commercial aviation market in and outside the US, with rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft. One significant, recent major purchase was Metro Aviation’s buy of 60 Icarus devices.


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