How holographic optics could be the future of head-up displays
Research conducted by Thales experts in the field of Holographic Head-Up Display technology has been showcased by the prestigious IEEE Consumer Electronics...
Head-Up Displays, which currently remain optional types of equipment for most airlines, is set to experience substantial growth over the next ten years. It is now an integral part of the initial design of all new cockpits and the CAAC, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, has made it mandatory for all Chinese airlines operating in China. Michel Soler, HUD senior marketing manager for Thales, provides the full story.
Why do the Chinese authorities want to make this equipment compulsory?
China has to deal with several problems such as increasing air traffic, the often unfavorable weather conditions and high rates of pollution. To remedy this, the authorities are rolling out a number of measures, including the HUD.
All airlines operating in China will therefore have to implement this equipment on board their aircraft. This affects not only Chinese airlines but also airlines from the Asia Pacific region; if these companies do not have HUD-equipped aircraft, they will not be able to benefit from privileged landing accesses… The stakes are high!
What is the timeframe?
This deployment is going to take place in three stages:
The first stage started in 2011/2012 and will end in 2015. Each airline will have to deploy the HUD on 10% of their fleet in operation in China whatever the aircraft type.
At the end of the second stage from 2016 to 2020, 50% of the airline’s fleet operating in China will have to be equipped. The increase of the mandatory equipment rate will thus entail a very strong increase in demand.
Finally, by 2025 all civil aircraft operating in China will have to be equipped.
The execution order of the CAAC covers two axes: on one hand the aircraft with the HUD equipment itself; on the other hand airports with, in particular, the implementation of procedures enabling planes equipped with HUD to benefit from specific minimum landing requirements, resulting in increased traffic.
What are Thales’s credentials in this domain?
Thales provides Head-Up Displays across the entire fleet of Airbus aircraft. The equipment is optional in the aircraft manufacturer’s catalogue but it is possible to install it on all Airbus aircraft (from A318 to A380 and also A400M) including the new generations of A320 NEO and A350 XWB. The latter will even be equipped with two HUDs, one on either side in order to preserve an initial symmetry of the cockpit design and procedures for the pilot and co-pilot. This configuration is now proposed on all Airbus aircraft.
Thales has now started to ship equipment to around a dozen airlines in China. Furthermore, the suppliers of simulators and the training centers of the relevant airlines are beginning to equip their simulators with HUDs so that crews receive adequate training.
What impact will the CAAC regulation have on Thales?
The Chinese regulation will drive a real increase in production rates for HUDs in the coming years. Thales has already set up the necessary industrial means to cover future needs. The first HUDs have already been integrated in the Final Assembly Line in Tianjin and deliveries for some aircraft began earlier this year.
Thales is also working with Airbus on a retrofit offering covering the entire Airbus fleet in order to meet CAAC objectives.
What are the main assets of an HUD?
The major benefit of an HUD is to improve the pilot’s perception of aircraft behavior (situational awareness enhancement) and, as already mentioned, to benefit from specific additional minimums especially for landings. It is therefore possible to land in degraded weather conditions and consequently for the airline to maintain a high level of fleet rotation.
These operational and economic benefits have already urged a certain number of airlines to equip their fleets with an HUD even before the HUDs become mandatory.
What are the market trends and future developments for the HUD?
Other than the Chinese market, the HUD is of interest to all countries which are faced with denser air traffic. Furthermore, the Thales HUD system can integrate additional functions such as EVS (Enhanced Vision System). The Chinese regulation comprises the implementation of the EVS function from the second stage of HUD deployment in order to increase operational benefits. The high-performance EVS comprises an infrared camera fixed on the nose of the aircraft, providing a sharper view than that of human vision by means of video beamed onto the HUD and superimposed on standard symbology. This extended vision is also a gateway to additional lower minimum requirements, most notably when landing.
On a mid-term basis, the EVS function can be completed with the SVS (Synthetic Vision System), which can be applied to head-up and head-down displays. Unlike the EVS which utilizes veritable imaging, the SVS consists of synthetic 3D landscape based on terrain data used for other aircraft systems.
Finally, with the SGS (Surface Guidance System), which is peripheral to the OANS (Onboard Airport Navigation System) functions, the HUD can also be of effective assistance during ground taxiing maneuvers.
HUD in brief
The HUD helps the pilot in the critical phases of a flight – takeoff and landing. It shows, on a display viewed head-up, the information normally displayed on the screens below. The pilot no longer needs to look simultaneously inside and outside the cockpit in order to check a certain amount of data. The pilot views, simultaneously and in a single place in front of their eyes, all the information needed to combine situational awareness with aircraft behavior.