ICARUS Smart Hood: Virtual IMC

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View limiting devices (VLDs) haven’t changed much over the years, but ICARUS Devices is a new company that’s set out to change the instrument hood as we know it with its smart VLD. Ahead of Sun ‘n Fun 2021, the company was showing the device, which uses a Polymer Dispersed Liquid Crystal (PDLC) film that changes imagery from clear to opaque via an external battery-powered control module, plus a smartphone app for scenario-based training.

The app enables the instructor to dial in the desired visibility over several modes, while also changing the transition time to better simulate real-world IMC. The device, which is available in fixed-wing and helicopter models, can be custom cut to better fit a variety of instrument panels and uses GoPro ball mounts that allow for adjustability when the hood is attached to the brim of a ball cap or sun visor.

The ICARUS smart VLD in 0-visibility mode

The device was developed by Nick Sinopoli, a military helicopter pilot, who hinted that future versions of the smart VLD might interface with third-party apps to better simulate real-world weather along a training route. The company is taking orders for the fixed-wing device at $1000 and $1500 for the helicopter version.

The ICARUS device is programmed via smartphone

“When I started this project I just wanted to make a better training hood because instrument training is often shortchanged when the student takes the hood off at the decision point on an approach, for example,” he said. With the smart VLD, the student can keep it on as the instructor changes the visibility throughout the rest of the approach, including the critical circling phase, as an example.

See the ICARUS smart VLD in action in the video, and visit www.icarusdevices.com

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12 COMMENTS

  1. very nice tech – but outside the means of most people who might use it. Cost makes it a non starter. My feeling about is its a solution looking for an already solved problem. Card stock a pencil and a pair of scissors has worked for many years,

    • Hi Anthony, Yes we have been using hoods since 1929 and the problem isn’t hoods, it is the poor instrument proficiency that they produce. Aviation is an expensive business and I bet your insurance rates have been on the rise. Why? Because we keep crashing aircraft. Don’t knock it until you try it.

  2. They need to get the cost down to $150 to make this viable. I hope someone is advising them that this is a small product that fits in the company’s portfolio. It’s one thing to sell a couple of dozen to higher-end flight schools at $1000. It’s quite another to be listed with Sporty’s or Aircraft Spruce and sell hundreds. Either way, it’s not a product that will support multiple full-time people for any length of time. It’s not a “pain-killer” but is a “great-to-have.” I love the product and wish them the best of luck!

    • Thank you Mark!! We are planning on scaling and getting the cost down. The goal is to also use insurance deductions to help offset the cost to the user. The insurance companies are very tired of IIMC, CFIT and LOC accidents!

  3. It looks like a very expensive and bulky solution to a problem that no one has. Changing the opacity of the visor doesn’t simulate real-world visibility conditions. Just take the foggles off when you don’t need them.

  4. Ah yes aviation pricing. However these are pretty specific and I don’t have a good idea of production costs. $1000 may not be that much out of line. Foggles however are priced at about $25 and other than hazing over the upper 2/3 of the lenses are very similar to the low end safety glasses from Harbor or HD where they are priced at $2-3. I know because I have both.
    For my simulated instrument the best device I have discovered is the Jeppesen flip up vision restrictors. I just wish they were a little larger to fit over a wider range of glasses.

  5. Throw tons of money at “something” to resolve a minor problem just won’t work. I suppose as they say on Shark Tank, “I want to sell a million of these so I can get my money back,” is beyond comprehension here. The above answers (above) make more sense and apparently have worked well for the price of a pair of Foggles.

  6. I was able to take part in a demo of this device and was impressed with how well it simulates the transitions into and out of IMC. It’s a surprise when the CFII sets different visibility levels like you’re going in and out of clouds and haze for realistic scenarios, a feeling you don’t get with the hood or glasses.