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Wearable head up display and interactive FMS:
are business jet pilots ready?
News/ > 2019/ > Wearable head up display and interactive FMS: are business jet pilots ready?/
Wearable head up display and interactive FMS: are business jet pilots ready?
29 November 2019 Thales plans on bringing its experience in providing helmet mounted display technology for military pilots to the business jet market with the newly upgraded version of TopMax, which is on track to become the first wearable head up display (HUD) to receive a technical standard order (TSO) and certification for business jet operations.

The initial version of TopMax was first introduced at the 2016 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (BACE), and Thales has kept its capabilities relatively the same. However, the form factor and ergonomics of the design has been significantly improved since then based on pilot feedback. During the NBAA BACE 2019, a group of Thales test pilots and engineers showcased an upgraded version of TopMax. It now weighs just over one pound, features an optional visor and the feel of the headset is not as bulky or heavy as the previous version.

Once the headset is worn, it becomes an intuitive system providing the pilot with effectively all of the same information–such as flight path vector, airspeed, altitude, attitude and waypoints–out ahead as one would see on a head down primary flight display. Thales recommends placing the HUD in front of the pilot’s dominant eye, and the information remains fixed — a 360-degree view of unlimited terrain, cueing functions and an extended virtual head down display constantly within the pilot’s direct line of vision. Other TopMax features include visualization of cross wind headings, synthetic runway, extended visual centerline and a three-dimensional display of traffic. There is also off-axis symbology, and if the aircraft is equipped to feed ADS-B In traffic to the HUD, the pilot can also see other aircraft in nearby airspace. Synthetic vision system (SVS) imagery is also visible on the HUD, and it can be coupled with any available enhanced vision system (EVS) camera as well. >>>
>>> «By wearing the device, we move away from the standard limitation of the head up display with a fixed combiner in front of us. We developed a small ship set for it. All you need is the headset and a small computer that is about the size of an iPhone to enable the functionality,» told Yanik Doyon, Thales’ director of sales for TopMax.

One of the unique features of TopMax is also how it will display and raise pilot awareness about important flight environment information, such as how close they are to an upcoming runway or what the aircraft’s heading is if they happen to look to their left or right. Doyon said Thales envisions pilots mainly wearing TopMax during the takeoff, approach and landing phases of flight.

«Head up displays, have a synthetic runway, but only when you're aligned with the runway, which sort of defeats the purpose,» Doyon said. «On TopMax, if the pilot looks to their left or outside the cockpit, they’ll still see the runway and be able to start their approach to be straightly aligned with the centerline of the runway.»

Doyon said over the last year nearly 200 pilots have tried out the TopMax, some in full flight simulators and other in-flight. He admitted that some civilian pilots trying out TopMax were «reluctant to put something on their head,» and that the new version is the fourth design iteration of TopMax. However, none said it was too bothersome to wear while flying.

Thales will need to work through some regulatory challenges to get TopMax certified and ready to start shipping to customers, as currently the FAA does not actually have a technical standard order (TSO) for wearable HUDs, so the very criteria for that must be developed and met first.

The French manufacturer has partnered with StandardAero in an effort to work toward certification of TopMax for the Bombardier Challenger 350, with other aircraft models planned in the future. FAA certification for TopMax is expected by the end of next year, according to Doyon. >>>
>>> «Certification is ongoing. We’ve defined what needs to be done with the FAA. We feel that head up display-like technology is going to become pretty much standard on almost every new business jet. TopMax is more than just a HUD, and we’re confident we have something that is ready to disrupt the business jet industry,» Doyon said.

At the same time, Elbit Systems' (Rockwell Collins F-35 helmet development partner) Universal Avionics debuted a new «Fly By Sight» navigation system for business aircraft at the National Business Aviation Association's (NBAA) annual Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (BACE 2019).

The system merges the company's ClearVision SkyLens Head Wearable Display (HWD) and the Interactive Flight Management System (i-FMS), which Universal Avionics unveiled in June at the Paris Air Show.

The new system is in tune with the thoughts of avionics analysts interviewed here on future industry trends and with Dror Yahav, the CEO of Universal Avionics, who said that the «Fly By Sight» system reflects the company's vision that the «future of flying should be simplified, automated, and more intuitive.»

Yahav said the «integration between the FMS and a wearable HUD like the SkyLens can greatly improve the way pilots fly — reducing workload while maintaining high efficiency and heightened situational awareness. It’s the first step to support single-pilot operation.»

A clean-sheet design, i-FMS tackles one of the main challenges pilots face today with FMS operations; the need to propose changes to the FMS during critical phases of flight such as takeoff and landing. Typically, during this time pilots are required to shift their attention from outside the cockpit window to the FMS display unit — to reprogram the FMS and validate that changes are correct — requiring last-minute updates and significant head-down operations. The i-FMS allows pilots to project waypoints and information from the FMS onto the real-world, superimposed on UA’s HUD or SkyLens HWD. >>>
>>> Universal Avionics «Fly By Sight» is to decrease a pilot's head-down time in high workload environments through allowing the pilot to conduct critical functions like a «direct-to, runway change or vector-to-final via head-up technologies instead of relying on head-down displays,» the company said. «The system is designed specifically to make these operations more intuitive, made feasible by integrating the head-up display with key FMS functionality.»

The SkyLens high-transparency visor presents high-resolution symbology/imagery, including EVS, SVS, and Combined Vision System (CVS), for superior see-through transmission in all weather conditions, day and night. This device offers unmatched capabilities for airline operators, providing dispatch and landing approach priority as well as Low Visibility Landing, regardless of the destination airport's infrastructure. As part of the NextGen roadmap, SkyLens aligns with Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 91.176 released by the FAA, enabling operators to perform a full landing procedure with no natural vision, where the reported visibility is as low as 1000 feet.

Once on the ground, this device can assist and guide the aircraft to the gate in poor conditions. The cutting-edge HWD requires significantly less installation efforts, and can often be installed in just a few days, compared to a fixed HUD which requires disassembly of the aircraft cockpit and can take weeks — all while the aircraft is grounded.

Universal Avionics said the «Fly By Sight» system is the «next generation» in the company's drive to expand Head Up operations, augmenting the real world through Head Up technologies with Line-of-Sight (head/eye tracking) functionality that pilots can use to accomplish highly demanding tasks during critical phases of flight by selecting menu options with their eyes. As an alternative control element of the system, there is a select/deselect button located on the aircraft yoke or throttle.

The company said it is offering «Fly By Sight» as a retrofit and an embedded solution as part of Universal Avionics' integrated Insight ClearVision cockpit solution. >>>
>>> A flexible, software-based, open architecture system, i-FMS is compatible with a number of hardware platforms based on IMA (Integrated Modular Avionics) technologies. The ARINC 653 compliant system allows customers to run the application in many third-party options to best suit their flight deck, with no need for specific hardware or Line Replaceable Units (LRU). The Human-Machine Interface (HMI), implemented with an ARINC 661 User Application, connects to the core operating system and allows pilots to communicate with the application. With UA’s easy-to-use, customizable HMI, customers can design their own flight deck with the hosted FMS software. Since the system is modular, customers may specify future functionalities, allowing for easy adaptation to address upcoming requirements. Support for a third-party HMI is also offered. Additionally, customers may integrate their proprietary functions by interfacing to the core operating system or by customizing menus and operational logic. i-FMS «enables new concepts in HMI such as augmenting head-down displays with ClearVision Head-Up Displays (HUD) and Head-Wearable Displays (HWD), allowing pilots to 'fly-by-sight,'» according to Universal Avionics.

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