Critical needs for enhanced situational awareness drive avionics display development

Product Intelligence, 2 May 2011. Avionics display designers say the increased situational awareness data available to pilots is driving avionics display configurations while avionics designers are calling for smaller display designs in military and commercial avionics retrofit programs. Massive amounts of information available in the cockpit also have an influence on display design. 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.

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By John McHaleProduct Intelligence -- Avionics display designers say the increased situational awareness data available to pilots is driving avionics display configurations while avionics designers are calling for smaller display designs in military and commercial 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 listing

Aspen Avionics
Albuquerque, N.M.
www.aspenavionics.com

Astronautics
Milwaukee
www.astronautics.com

Avidyne Corp.
Lincoln, Mass.
www.avidyne.com

BAE Systems
Farnborough, England
www.baesystems.com

Barco
Rancho Cordova, Calif.
www.barco.com

Digital Systems Engineering
Scottsdale, Ariz.
www.digitalsys.com

Dynon Avionics
Woodinville, Wash.
www.dynonavionics.com

Elbit Systems
Haifa, Israel
www.elbitsystems.com

Esterline CMC Electronics
Ville Saint-Laurent, Quebec
www.cmcelectronics.ca

Flight Display Systems
Alpharetta Ga.
www.flightdisplay.com

Garmin
Olathe, Kan.
www.garmin.com

GE Aviation
Cincinnati
www.geae.com

Honeywell Aerospace
Phoenix
www.honeywell.com

Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S)
Exton, Pa.
www.innovative-ss.com

L-3 Display Systems
Alpharetta, Ga.
http://www.l-3com.com/Displays/

Meggitt Avionics
FareHam, England
http://www.meggitt-avionics.co.uk/

Rockwell Collins
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
www.rockwellcollins.com

Palomar Display Products
Carlsbad, Calif.
www.palomardisplays.com

Parvus
Salt Lake City
www.parvus.com

Planar
Beaverton, Ore.
www.planar.com

Sagem Avionics
Grand Prairie, Texas
www.sagemavionics.com

Sandel Avionics
Vista, Calif.
www.sandel.com

Terma A/S
Lystrup, Denmark
www.terma.com

Thales
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
www.thalesgroup.com

Tulip Development Laboratory
Quakertown, Pa.
www.tuliplabs.com

Universal Avionics
Tucson, Ariz.
www.uasc.com

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