Every fourth helicopter mission by the Swiss Air Rescue Rega takes place at night. The Rega crews have been using night vision devices for over 30 years to provide people in distress with medical aid from the air, even in the dark. As of mid-April, new night vision devices specially developed for Rega's needs have been used.
Last year, the Rega helicopter crews brought medical aid to patients from the air over 10,000 times, around 2,500 of them at night. Flights at night are particularly challenging for the entire crew, but especially for helicopter pilots. Obstacles such as lines or trees, but also changes in weather conditions, are more difficult to see in the dark. Night vision devices increase the residual light and are an important aid for orientation at night during flight. In addition to solid education and continuous training, they make a significant contribution to ensuring that the safety of the crews and patients is guaranteed at all times, especially at night.
More contrast and a larger field of vision
As of mid-April, new night vision devices specially developed for Rega are on board every Rega helicopter. These combine the best components of different night vision devices and were developed in accordance with Rega's requirements. The highly sensitive image intensifier tubes of the new devices generate an image in black and white. This is different to the previous devices, which displayed a greenish image.
Contrast, shapes and shadows can be seen much more clearly with the new devices, the eye is less stressed and does not tire as quickly. In addition, the field of vision is 25 per cent larger. This means that the surroundings are even more visible to the helicopter pilots, which enables them to recognize dangers earlier and react accordingly.
Approval from EASA
In aviation, everything that flies in an aircraft must meet the strictest requirements and be checked by an independent body. Rega's own design and development company drafted the certification program so that the new night vision devices could finally be approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) after extensive tests in the laboratory and on test flights. The cost of a night vision device, including development, is around CHF 25,000, and Rega is investing around CHF 1.2 million in total in the new devices and thus in the safety of its crews and patients.