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Digital cockpits bring Chinooks closer to flying themselvesThe U.S. military has upgraded its fleet of Chinook military helicopters with some high-tech features that make them easier to fly, land and evade enemy fire. CNET'S Sumi Das show us how a new digital cockpit has turned this military copter into a smart...
The California National Guard recently received a highly sophisticated tool, new helicopters. The CH47F Chinooks monitor, navigate and essentially fly themselves. The previous Chinook model, the 47D, was introduced about 30 years ago. Technology's changed a bit since then. Just take a look at the cockpit, which has gone from using these needle based instruments, to using a slew of computer displays. 17 computers and cockpit technology called the Common Avionics Architecture System, or CAAS,. Turn the CH47F into a smart aircraft. Auto pilot features simplify flight planning. We can sit on the ground on a computer, a good ole laptop if you will and program in everything we want the aircraft to do. We take that, that digital card. Plug it into the cockpit, and then upload that data into the aircraft and tell it what we want it to do, where we want it to go. A ring laser gyroscope enables greater accuracy. It's so sensitive that the aircraft can register the Earth's movement. When it's rotating, it knows it's doing that, it's that accurate. Which gives us the ability to hover. Within one foot of a coordinate that we receive. So one of our jokes is, do you want the front of the aircraft over your part? Or the back of the aircraft over your de, over your LD? Because you can be that precise. Yes. With the cast cockpit technology, the Chinooks can fly in less than ideal conditions. Then, in addition, I get this information, which is our hover. Symbology, it's all just what we're doing in a hover, how high we are off the ground, where we are in relationship to a point on the ground. I don't have that at all in a D model. I have no hover reference information at all other than looking out the window. So in bad weather, just landing, snow conditions, I can see all this data right here and know exactly where I am. The new Chinooks were designed to reduce vibration. Why is that important? A smoother ride means you can fly longer without suffering from helicopter fatigue. They put in what's called monolithic construction, which is a new construction technique on the airframe, beefing it up, making it stiffer in all the key areas. What can pilots do now that technology is saving them so much time? Focus on their mission. In Stockton, California I'm to Simi Doss CNET.com for CBS news.