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Aviation Specialties Unlimited: Guiding the night vision revolution

Treena Hein | November 8, 2023

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 1 seconds.

This sponsored article was created by Insight magazine, the sponsored content division of MHM Publishing, on behalf of Aviation Specialties Unlimited.

A new lightweight, cutting-edge night vision goggle (NVG) called E3 is about to hit the market — one of many new developments from Aviation Specialties Unlimited (ASU), an international firm based in Idaho. Over the last year, this industry-leading innovator has also achieved ISO 9001 certification, launched a new website platform, and secured several new contracts in the U.S. and Brazil.

“ASU is a one-stop shop for industry-leading night vision goggles, cockpit modification for night flying and night vision flight training,” said Dr. Joseph Estrera, ASU president and former chief technology officer. “We’re very pleased about our recent contracts and newest NVG technology, which will enable more pilots in more aircraft to fly safely at night. Saving lives is our goal.”

In August, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded ASU the Flight Standards Operations Inspectors and Aircraft Certification Pilots NVG contract (both initial and recurrent training) in the operation of fixed-wing aircraft. This is the third time since 2017 that ASU has received the contract. In rotary aircraft, ASU first started training FAA pilots in 2007 and continues to train them to this day.

“We have worked hard to earn both these training contracts,” Estrera said. “We appreciate the FAA’s trust in our organization and look forward to continuing our working relationship far into the future.”

ASU’s busy center of excellence for night vision training is located at its headquarters in Boise, Idaho. The center can take a pilot from a bright, open desert environment to backcountry mountainous terrain with zero artificial light. Pilots come from all over the world to receive the specialized training.

Estrera noted that the use of night vision in fixed-wing aircraft has jumped this year because of the many destructive wildfires around the globe due to natural events, such as annual lightning storms, and man-made causes, such as arson.

“The best time to fight a fire is at night because winds calm down,” he explained. “To put out these fires, we need to take action around the clock. We are very proud to be a trusted technology provider initiating very rapid night vision imaging system cockpit modifications and efficient training to help deal with these extremely serious situations as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

ASU vice president of business development and marketing Chad St. Francis added that “it’s our hope that with the renewal of our NVG training contracts, along with our new lightweight NVG goggle product release, ASU will be able to help more pilots be comfortable with flying at night. With the current pilot shortage, expanding the skillset of every pilot has a huge impact.”

New E3 NVGs

Both experienced and new pilots will no doubt be keen to put on the new ASU E3 lightweight NVGs, which will hit the market soon. They are about 30 percent lighter than the existing legacy aviator NVGs and will be lightest binocular NVGs available. 

“The industry has been asking for lighter weight NVGs for years,” Estrera said. “When pilots use NVGs over four to six hours, it can cause neck and back pain, as well as significant fatigue. Studies from the U.S. military show prolonged use can cause long-term chronic spinal and neck pain symptoms. We want to save lives first and foremost, but we also want to prevent negative machine interface effects on pilots. We’ve worked hard on the new E3 and we’re very excited that it will help prevent back and neck pain and lessen workload fatigue.”

The research and development for the E3 involved looking at new materials for the goggle frame, as well as how to trim weight from various components.

“We discovered that the use of aluminum and titanium allowed us to reduce overall goggle weight from 540 grams to 390 grams, not counting elimination of a counterweight previously required on the back of the helmet,” St. Francis said.

Estrera pointed out that many people in the aviation industry don’t realize that ASU has years of experience conducting research in areas such as imaging and electro-optical R&D.

“The introduction of the new E3 affirms that ASU is not solely a value-added reseller but that we are an innovator — and now, an original equipment manufacturer with ISO certification,” he said. “We also help our customers protect their NVG investments and minimize downtime with the quick and professional service of ASU’s dedicated and highly-trained NVG lab staff. Our team typically completes NVG inspections and 180-day recertifications within 48 hours of equipment receipt.”

ASU also manufactures aircraft PMA parts, specialized toolkits and nitrogen purge kits to service and maintain NVGs.

“We have continually evolved to meet the needs of our customers and that will not stop,” Estrera said. “ASU customers who have enjoyed new products like the Aeronox NVG mount and battery pack, as well as new customers, can look forward to purchasing the new E3 NVGs soon, and to more innovation in years to come.”

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