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.
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.”
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