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Vision systems, shared user interfaces, and connected flight decks


Intuitive avionics reduce pilot workload and improve SA.

By Jake Carpenter
Contributing Writer

Aircraft flight controls constitute the essential interface between pilots and machine. Since the beginnings of aviation, such controls have evolved from the most rudimentary manual levers and cables to those that now comprise highly sophisticated augmented reality (AR), haptic interface, fly-by-light, intelligent autopilots, and comprehensive flight deck systems. The following are some of the most exciting aircraft control products that have emerged thus far.

No vision, no problem

Universal Avionics offers flight management systems, displays, communications, and connectivity solutions. Its ClearVision EFVS can be coupled with SkyLens wearable HUD for optimal situational awareness.

Universal Avionics’ ClearVision enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) optimizes situational awareness (SA) through cutting-edge AR technology. EFVS diminishes reliance on natural vision and facilitates operation in challenging conditions, such as fog, haze, or night-time. In fact, it enables pilots to engage in all flight operations and full landing procedures with visibility as low as 1000 ft.

Using infrared and synthetic vision technologies, ClearVision presents an image using multi-sensor cameras to blend real-time synthetic vision system (SVS) and EFVS imagery directly onto an intuitive and lightweight head-up display (HUD), physical flight controls, and windshields.

SVS offers a synthetic image of the surroundings by integrating high-resolution 3D data about terrain, obstacles, and flightplan information. Complementarily, the EFVS employs high-resolution, long-wave infrared cameras for thermal imaging, visualizing runway environments and surrounding terrain.

As Universal Avionics Head of Sales and Marketing Mark Bouliane states, “Flight crews using the system can operate in lower visibility conditions and perform operations that other aircraft cannot complete.”

Intelligent autopilots

The Garmin G5000 integrated flight deck is configurable and upgradeable. It can support technology as it becomes available, including NextGen and SESAR. In addition, database and software updates are easy to handle with the system’s built-in SD card reader.

Intelligent autopilots are designed to control and automate the operation of an aircraft without direct human piloting. Garmin’s Electronic Stability and Protection (ESP) system maintains aircraft stability by providing haptic feedback to the pilot when the aircraft deviates from safe flight envelopes, and guides the controls back toward safe flight parameters.

In addition, Emergency Descent Mode (EDM) mitigates hypoxia risk by automating aircraft descent upon sudden cabin depressurization, while considering terrain and obstacles for safe navigation.

Garmin’s Autoland offers complete autonomous safe landing operations in emergencies. Autoland navigates around hazardous terrain, obstacles, and weather. The system also selects the best airport for landing, considering runway length, distance, fuel range, weather, and other factors.

Finally, Smart Glide alleviates pilot workload substantially during engine failure by engaging the autopilot to maintain optimal glide speed and path based on aircraft weight, altitude, and wind conditions.

An integrated, cloud-connected flight deck

Honeywell’s Anthem flight deck offers a 50% reduction in size, weight, and power, and greater installation flexibility when compared to Honeywell’s Primus Epic avionics system. The company completed the first flight fully managed by Anthem using its Pilatus PC-12 test aircraft in May 2023.

Honeywell’s Anthem is a comprehensive, integrated, state-of-the-art platform with thorough customization capabilities. It transcends the one-size-fits-all approach that has long dominated flight decks.

“With Honeywell Anthem, pilots can quickly and easily position the primary flight display, navigation maps, charts, radio controls, and other information and tools anywhere they want on any display,” says Jason Bialek, product line director for Honeywell Anthem.

It features intuitive touch controls and smart prompting, and allows pilots to look at the display as they would through a window.

It is also Honeywell’s first cloud-connected cockpit system, which leverages artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, vast computational power, and high-fidelity sensors to optimize flight control decisions and adapt in real time. Anthem also offers advanced autopilot modes, flight envelope protection, trajectory-based operations, and advanced navigation capability for complex flight procedures.

An infinite horizon ahead

Flight controls have come an unfathomable distance, transitioning from manual systems to state-of-the-art, high-tech interfaces, with powerful and diverse functionalities. The innovations explained herein constitute just a few examples of this remarkable transformation. As we move into the future, the continuation of this trend and its ever-increasing pace are certain. Indeed, unprecedented efficiency, safety, and interaction delivered through the evolution of onboard flight controls reveal a bright, infinite horizon ahead for aviation.