Night vision for civilian pilots

Night vision goggles are now available for civilian pilots.

Mark Rutherford
The military establishment's ever increasing reliance on technology and whiz-bang gadgetry impacts us as consumers, investors, taxpayers and ultimately as the defended. Our mission here is to bring some of these products and concepts to your attention based on carefully selected criteria such as importance to national security, originality, collateral damage to the treasury and adaptability to yard maintenance-but not necessarily in that order. E-mail him at markr@milapp.com. Disclosure.
Mark Rutherford
2 min read

Flying your Bell Ranger in a ball cap is something of a fashion statement. But it lacks that iconic, ant-head panache that until recently only military pilots wearing restricted, government-use-only night vision-equipped helmets could pull off.


The NVAG-6 Night Vision Goggles change all that. They're the first night vision goggle certified by the FAA for civilian use, according to manufacturer Nivisys. Of course, looks are not what will sell this gear. It's the safety margin they can potentially add to low-light and nighttime flying (PDF).

"This is a historical moment for civil aviator night vision safety. Nivisys is now the first and only company certified for the production of night vision goggles under FAA TSO-C164," said Nivisys CEO Allen Harding.

The unit can be used with fixed and rotary winged aircraft, according to the company. You'll probably want one just to avoiding doing a "Bill Graham," but the company foresees wide use in many after-dark flight operations, such as offshore oil rigging, logging, power line and high-rise work, and search and rescue.

The NVAG-6 comprises a lightweight binocular made of anodized aluminum that can be mounted to a variety of helmets. The 25mm eye relief eyepieces are individually adjustable and even work for operators wearing prescription glasses or contacts. A flip-up base allows for fine tuning for fore/aft adjustments.

The goggles automatically turn off when the helmet mount is flipped up, which prevents tube damage in case of exposure to bright lights. They run on AAs, which are presumably not included.