Putting the Solutions Together
The drive for improved technological protection against collision hazards comes as operators have less and less of an appetite for adding new boxes to their aircraft.
Few pilots or aircraft owners have spare real estate on instrument panels for added displays or indicators. Fewer still want the extra weight, maintenance and life-cycle costs of new avionics. Consequently, avionics vendors are spending more time and money in developing integrated solutions to instrument and display needs.
These factors already are driving products in the field.
Chelton Flight Systems’ electronic flight instrumentation combines multiple capabilities in a single display.
Sagem Avionics in the past year has launched its Integrated Cockpit Display Systems products, which have the same goal.
Further upstream, both AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopters have decided in recent years that, to meet their customers’ demands for simplified and lower-cost avionics, they would have to control the architecture that governs the interface of black boxes on their aircraft. Bell’s BasiX open architecture for its new Model 429 light twin, and its decision to design the aircraft’s brain, the digital acquisition unit, are cases in point.
Much of the momentum toward integrated systems comes from the growing use of enhanced and synthetic vision systems.
Elbit’s Kollsman Inc is offering its General Aviation Vision System (GAViS) for helicopter applications. The system, developed to improve situation awareness by extending the pilot’s forward vision at night and in low-visibility conditions, can be fed to any video-capable display, according to Ed Popek of Kollsman. GAViS is designed to be mounted like an aircraft antenna, the company said, without need for extra equipment such as windows and fairings, lowering total cost of ownership.
GAViS uses one line-replaceable unit drawing 28 v DC. It supplies standard RS170 analog video for display in the cockpit.
The Kollsman Night Window enhanced vision system consists of an 8-12 micron forward-looking infrared (flir) sensor with an integrated IR window and an optional electronics processing/power supply box for added interface flexibility. It is designed to display an IR image on a head-down display or head-up display.
CMC Electronics is fielding its SureSight M-Series enhanced vision system for helicopters. Last year, Edwards and Associates installed it on an AgustaWestland AW139 for a corporate customer.
The sensor is designed to help crews fly safely in darkness, smoke, smog and other poor visibility conditions. The M-Series sensor weighs 2.2 lb and measures 2.4X2.5X6 in. It also is in a single line-replaceable unit.
As with many things rotorcraft, the drive for greater and more integrated detection and display capabilities comes from the military. Mounting losses of aircraft and personnel to brownout crashes in Iraq and Afghanistan have rotorcraft leaders searching for a solution to that major threat.
This has the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency undertaking an R&D effort to solve the brownout problem. It has contracted with Sikorsky Aircraft to integrate and test a new landing system for helicopters that promises safer flying in brownouts.
Known as Sandblaster, it seeks to replace the visual cues lost during brownout by giving helicopter pilots an accurate synthetic depiction of the outside world. The system would integrate various new technologies, including 94 GHz radar, detailed topographical and obstacle data and synthetic-vision displays, to create this depiction. It also would integrate advanced flight controls to stabilize the approach profile and reduce pilot work load, assisting the pilot in landing safely.
Sandblaster would enable the pilot to "see" through the cloud and guide the helicopter to a preset landing point.
Sikorsky’s team includes Honeywell, which was selected to develop and integrate synthetic-vision technology, and Sierra Nevada, which is designing and integrating the 94 GHz radar.
Under the terms of a $6.9-million, 18-month contract, Honeywell will design and demonstrate a synthetic vision system for the UH-60 Black Hawk cockpit that enhances situational awareness and reduces the workload for pilots operating aircraft in degraded visual environments.
"Taking-off and landing in arid desert terrain during brownouts can lead to obscured vision, disorientation and accidents," said Vicki Panhuise, Honeywell Defense and Space’s vice president of commercial and military helicopters. "This technology development program addresses vital warfighter needs to help ensure safer helicopter missions."
BAE Systems also proposes to develop a brownout solution for military operators. It has tapped Mercury Computer Systems, Inc to provide a synthetic vision display for its proposed system. Mercury’s VistaNav synthetic vision technology would serve as the basis of the system.
Rockwell Collins and Optical Air Data Systems also have teamed to offer a brownout solution called LandSafe.
LandSafe was developed through an exclusive licensing agreement between the two companies and incorporates commercial-off-the-shelf fiber optic laser technology to "sense through" particulate matter such as dust, snow, rain, smoke or fog while providing altitude, groundspeed and airspeed information to the flight crew. It is being evaluated by the U.S. Marine Corps for the CH-53E.