|Rockwell Collins’ new touch-screen PFD-MFD was announced Sunday.
Rockwell Collins new Pro Line Fusion primary flight display (PFD) and multifunction display (MFD) now have touch-screen control capability. Instead of looking down at a separate control data unit, or using a cursor control device to move a cursor on the main screens, pilots can operate the Fusion system by touching icons on the main displays. Rockwell Collins, a platinum EAA sponsor and presenter of the air show, announced the new system here at EAA AirVenture.
Graphical flight planning and on-screen menus have been features of the newest flat glass avionics systems for several years. Airplane makers have come up with various ways to move the cursor around the display to call up menus or to click on a fix to enter in a flight plan.
To compare the way the new Fusion system operates to a smartphone or iPad would be pretty accurate.
Collins’ new system allows pilots to use a finger touch on the main screens to call up a menu or describe a route he wants to fly—as opposed to a remotely mounted touch-screen input device.
As on any touch-driven display, icons are the key to operation with the new Fusion.
The touch of an icon brings up short menus of various tasks so one more touch on the menu is typically enough to complete the task. Swiping your finger across the screen can control pan or zoom functions.
Because Fusion will use common icons it will be possible for pilots to transition from one Fusion-equipped airplane to another with minimal added training.
Collins’ objective with its new Fusion system is to keep pilots looking ahead. Since pilots need to look at the PFD for essential flight information—attitude, airspeed, altitude, and such—looking at the same display to change a radio frequency or enter a new navigation fix, for example, keeps the pilot’s focus where it should be.
The new Fusion capability is designed for turboprop and jet airplanes.
Because Fusion is a system, Collins does not separately price individual components and features such as touch-screen, but word is that system pricing is very competitive.
Collins has also recently introduced the HGS-3500 head-up display (HUD) that is sized and priced to fit into smaller business airplanes. (See Left Seat on page 46.) Collins prefers the term head-up guidance instead of the more traditional HUD name, but the device is the same with a glass lens located in front of the pilot’s eyes.
All primary flight information is projected on the glass so the pilot can look through the glass and see the real world outside while at the same time see airspeed, attitude, and so on. HUD technology has long been a staple in jet fighters, allowing pilots to see the information necessary to fly the airplane while also keeping the target in sight.
Collins is first to offer computer-generated synthetic vision on the HUD display.
Synthetic vision is available now on all types of flat glass displays in the panel, but having the necessary computer and optical technology to project it on a HUD with sufficient brightness to see in daylight is a major breakthrough for Collins.
Safety experts have made the rather obvious conclusion that synthetic vision on a HUD would prevent nearly all controlled flight into terrain accidents. If we can see the terrain, and we are under control, we pilots just don’t fly into the ground.
Collins synthetic vision allows pilots to “see” the terrain even though it’s dark, the visibility is reduced, or we’re flying inside a cloud or fog.
Collins is also a leader in developing flight control for unpiloted aircraft.
As a result of that work Collins is close to offering an autonomous backup one-touch emergency mode. When a drone loses contact with its ground controllers, or has some other control issue, it goes into an emergency mode where it flies into a hold at a safe altitude and waits for valid commands.
Collins is developing such a system for business airplanes. If, in some emergency, pilots become confused about their situation, or need time to deal with a system emergency, a single button press would automatically fly the airplane into a hold at a safe altitude and airspeed to give them time to deal with the situation.
Because the Fusion system already knows exactly where the airplane is, where the terrain and obstructions are, it can automatically select a safe location and altitude for the hold. Fusion also knows where suitable airports are and the performance of the airplane in all conditions—including with a failed engine—so it could direct the pilots to the nearest suitable airport in an emergency.
You can see all of the new elements of the Pro Line Fusion system here at AirVenture at the company’s pavilion near Rockwell Collins Exhibit Hangar C.