Avionics display designs driven by situational awareness requirements

July 19, 2011
The increased situational awareness capability that pilots want in the cockpit is what is is driving avionics display development. Meanwhile avionics designers are calling for smaller display designs in commercial and military avionics retrofit programs. 
By John McHaleThe increased situational awareness capability that pilots want in the cockpit is what is is driving avionics display development. Meanwhile avionics designers are calling for smaller display designs in commercial and military avionics retrofit programs. "With increasing amounts of situational awareness information to present, our displays must be capable of supporting advanced human-machine interfaces," says Paul Ekman, senior director of the Head Down Display Center at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "These interfaces are more graphical in nature with intuitive presentation and command structures that reduce workload. Users want to interact with the display information more directly favoring touch-screen capabilities, support of gesture commands, and acknowledgement of user input through feedback mechanisms."Massive amounts of information available in the cockpit also have an influence on avionics displays design. "Customers are looking for larger displays with higher resolution to tackle the increased level of information available in the cockpit, such as moving maps, flight planning, and streaming videos," says Patrick Champagne, vice president of cockpits and systems integration at Esterline CMC Electronics in Montreal. "Human machine interface, i.e. the interaction of the crew with the displays, is becoming more sophisticated and requires touch screen interface with multi-touch capabilities. Smarter displays are evolving toward programmable display layouts, more open system architecture in hardware and software design, and standardized software applications."Military users want more processing capability so they can stream live video in on the displays and display FLIR imaging, and have processing capability to meet future requirements, says Bill Ruhl, regional marketing manager at Astronautics Corporation of America in Milwaukee."One thing military users want in their avionics displays is night vision technology," Ruhl says. "All Astronautics displays have a LED backlighting system that is capable of supporting night vision technology."Other trends include the continued integration of processing elements and features that allow displays formats with less overall depth and the adoption of standard digital protocols for graphics rendering and media support, Ekman says."The continued integration of CPU and GPU devices, along with efficient LED backlighting is allowing for display formats with less depth," Ekman says. "This is allowing displays to be placed in cockpit positions that could not be considered in the past. Also, support for standard, more digital display and video protocols further consolidate circuitry and enables re-application of design elements."Many of these cockpit positions were difficult due to size constraints of many display formats."When retrofitting an avionics display system most military users want a low-cost upgrade that can slide right into existing configurations without extensive costs," Ruhl says. Some cockpits are very tight when it comes to available space and squeezing a display in there can be challenging, he adds."Retrofits continue to be active as platforms deal with obsolescence issues and smaller, more affordable upgrades," Ekman says.Each military display configuration Astronautics works on is unique in terms of the display size and number of displays they want, Ruhl says. Some users want only two displays on a helicopter, leaving the original engine instruments in place, while others want three new displays with one showing the engine information, he adds."We have done the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) for the Brazilian air force, using five 6-by-8-inch displays," Ruhl says. Another AMP program for a C-130 used six displays and electronic flight bag (EFB) capability that enables the customer to display other data, he adds.Astronautics Smart Displays have a low silhouette electronics package that enables one to accommodate high instrument panel mounting, says Eyton Zelazo, business development manager at Astronautics. The devices enable integration of most aircraft, systems and navigation applications and offer integration of communication navigation surveillance/air traffic management (CNS/ATM) related systems and functions, he adds.CNS/ATM is "driving the demand for improved displays by making the cockpit a data rich environment," Champagne says. "In this context, the retrofit market is effectively driving the demand for smarter avionics displays."Displays are acquiring increasing degrees of smartness with embedded processing power, increased digital data storage capacity and faster transfer rates with other avionics equipment," Champagne continues. "The longer term trend for avionics display upgrades is for software standards allowing new avionics functionality to be added easily and at very low cost, i.e., the capability to download software applications."Company listingAspen AvionicsAlbuquerque, N.M.www.aspenavionics.comAstronauticsMilwaukeewww.astronautics.comAvidyne Corp.Lincoln, Mass.www.avidyne.comBAE SystemsFarnborough, Englandwww.baesystems.comBarcoRancho Cordova, Calif.www.barco.comDigital Systems EngineeringScottsdale, Ariz.www.digitalsys.comDynon AvionicsWoodinville, Wash.www.dynonavionics.comElbit SystemsHaifa, Israelwww.elbitsystems.comEsterline CMC ElectronicsVille Saint-Laurent, Quebecwww.cmcelectronics.caFlight Display SystemsAlpharetta Ga.www.flightdisplay.comGarminOlathe, Kan.www.garmin.comGE AviationCincinnatiwww.geae.comHoneywell AerospacePhoenixwww.honeywell.comInnovative Solutions & Support (IS&S)Exton, Pa.www.innovative-ss.comL-3 Display SystemsAlpharetta, Ga.http://www.l-3com.com/Displays/Meggitt AvionicsFareHam, Englandhttp://www.meggitt-avionics.co.uk/Rockwell CollinsCedar Rapids, Iowawww.rockwellcollins.comPalomar Display ProductsCarlsbad, Calif.www.palomardisplays.comParvusSalt Lake Citywww.parvus.comPlanarBeaverton, Ore.www.planar.comSagem AvionicsGrand Prairie, Texaswww.sagemavionics.comSandel AvionicsVista, Calif.www.sandel.comTerma A/SLystrup, Denmarkwww.terma.comThalesNeuilly-sur-Seine, Francewww.thalesgroup.comTulip Development LaboratoryQuakertown, Pa.www.tuliplabs.comUniversal AvionicsTucson, Ariz.www.uasc.com

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