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Esterline Engineer Talks Designing Touchscreens, GNSS

By Woodrow Bellamy III | September 13, 2018
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170330-N-WF272-174 EAST CHINA SEA (March 30, 2017) An AS-332 Super Puma helicopter delivers supplies to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during a replenishment-at-sea. Bonhomme Richard is the flagship of it's expeditionary strike group, which is on a routine patrol operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance warfighting readiness and posture forward as a ready-response force for any type of contingency. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan/Released)

An Airbus Helicopters AS332 Super Puma delivers supplies to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during a replenishment-at-sea. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

Esterline CMC is in the midst of developing both its next-generation GNSS receiver, the CMA-6024, and a new cockpit display touchscreen technology that will disrupt the concept of the traditional multi-function control display unit (MCDU).

One of the lead engineers behind the design of these new technologies, Alexandre Capodicasa, is living out a childhood dream in his role on these projects.

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Capodicasa is a senior system architect of the research and development flight management system (FMS) program at Esterline. His first entry into a career in avionics engineering came after he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering specialization in avionics from Polytechnique Montreal in 2002. That would lead to his first entry-level position with Esterline CMC as a software development engineer working on helicopter flight management systems.

One of the key programs he worked on was upgrading Airbus H215 Super Puma helicopters with new civil and military navigation systems, satellite voice and messaging capabilities and direction finder technology.

Capodicasa spoke to Avionics about how he went from developing software for helicopter FMS technology to leading the design of Esterline CMC’s next-generation GNSS receiver, the CMA-6024.

What are some of the projects or specific tasks that you’re working on?

I’m currently working on a next-generation flight management system application that can be hosted on multiple platforms. I am focusing on the design concept, system, sub-system specifications and certification aspects.

My typical day includes coordination meetings with the platform development team located overseas in another Esterline site. I also spend time focusing on specification development, design concept creation and reviews, prototype evaluation with the human factor engineering team and regular conference calls with customers for requirement validation.

I’m also working with another team in the company supporting other avionic upgrade program with existing FMS and in improving the product development process for new products.

Are there any new or exciting requirements or applications or requests from customers that Esterline CMC is trying to meet right now that you’re supporting? What changes within new or developing airplane technologies are driving changes in what you’re working on?

I’m currently working with touchscreen technology. The performance standards are still evolving and new challenges have to be considered when transitioning from traditional MCDUs to touchscreens. With our new graphical, interactive design we can design more intuitive interface with more contextual functions.

Our challenge is to design a good interface de-coupled from the core flight management function such that we can integrate it into various cockpit layouts. The new FMS application design also allows porting our RNP/RNAV core function as a partition on military platforms, which will be a key enabler for military manned and unmanned aircraft flying within the next generation airspace.

When you look at the capabilities of Esterline CMC avionics technologies, how will they evolve and expand in the future? What will Esterline be developing in the next five years that it is not providing today?

The software FMS application I mentioned previously is one example. Another is our latest GNSS receiver, the CMA-6024, currently under development and will be available towards the end of this year. In addition to being a GPS receiver that meets the latest standards and mandates, the CMA-6024 is also a satellite-based augmentation system localizer performance/localizer performance with vertical guidance (SBAS LP/LPV) and ground based augmentation system landing system (GBAS GLS) landing unit, all in one box.

SBAS LP/LPV and GBAS GLS are the latest technologies available for aircraft precision approach and landing operations. A nice feature of our CMA-6024 is that it can be controlled by the existing MCDUs on-board aircraft (via ARINC 739) or by separate control panels. We are also heavily involved in various standards committees, including RTCA and ARINC, defining the latest FMS and RNP standards as well as the next generation multi-constellation multi-frequency aviation GNSS receivers.

This was originally published in sister publication Avionics.

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