COTS, open architectures drive LCD use

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Implementing active-matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCDs) in weapons increasingly depends on open-systems architectures able to accept commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components across a variety of platforms. This approach enables users to upgrade their systems quickly and easily as new technology becomes available.

Th Mae71691 12

By John Rhea

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - Implementing active-matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCDs) in weapons increasingly depends on open-systems architectures able to accept commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components across a variety of platforms. This approach enables users to upgrade their systems quickly and easily as new technology becomes available.

Experts at the Guidance & Control Systems Division of Litton Industries in Northridge, Calif., developed an architecture for the U.S. Army UH-60Q medical evacuation helicopter and have since adapted it to displays for the SH-2G helicopter and EA-6B electronic warfare jet aircraft.

The basic configuration includes a 10-inch color AMLCD and the supporting electronics, such as a 200 MHz PowerPC 603 host processor, digital video processing chips, and power supply. However, designers can upgrade the 10-inch display to a 12- or 14-inch AMLCD without changing the electronics or chassis.

In addition to color video, the multifunction display system can show monochrome high-resolution forward looking infrared images. The system uses such standard programming languages as C, C++, and Ada, and standard interfaces such as Mil-Std-15453, RS-232, and Ethernet.

Engineers at the Data Systems division of Litton in Agoura Hills, Calif., are also using COTS in a 10.4-inch color AMLCD initially aimed at law-enforcement applications but are grooming it for military applications. The ruggedized units, which originally cost $6,000, were first sold to the San Diego County Sheriff`s department. There, sheriff`s deputies will transfer computer data over wireless links. Using COTS parts throughout, the company`s goal is to drive the price down to $5,000.

Planar Systems Inc., Beaverton, Ore., which has a hand in virtually all display technologies, in January launched a new line of 5.5- to 12.1-inch color AMLCDs called ColorBrite for medical, industrial, and transportation applications, but Planar officials are aiming at adding value by upgrading systems with compatible displays.

Under a contract from Denro Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., Planar engineers are supplying display subsystems for the terminal radar control centers and air traffic control towers of the Federal Aviation Administration. To upgrade all of these facilities will require as many as 10,000 displays, say Planar officials.

A combination AMLCD-CD ROM/floppy external disk drive assembly, originally developed for general aviation by Electronic Designs Inc. in Westborough, Mass., meanwhile, is being tailored for ruggedized uses such as Global Positioning System navigation, engine monitoring, weather maps, and radar indicators.

Driving the 5-inch-diagonal sunlight-readable screen is an Intel microprocessor and the Windows NT operating system. Users can customize the displays, which cost $6,000 in quantities of 100.

Experts at another AMLCD system supplier, Aydin Displays of Horsham, Pa., have installed their ruggedized 16- and 20-inch monitors, built to Mil-Std-810E, in command and control centers of surface ships and are aiming at applications in submarines and ground vehicles. The color monitors have a 160-degree field of view and are compatible with standard 19-inch racks.

Click here to enlarge image

AMLCDs , enabled by open-system architectures, are being ruggedized for weapons systems located in helicopters, command and control centers for surface ships, and are being aimed at submarines and ground vehicles.

More in Computers