Rockwell Collins is bringing to bear its technology competencies in the adjacent civil sector and concurrent internal research and development efforts to move US Air Force (USAF) C-130J aircrews more fully into the digital age.
The C-130J initial baseline technology delivered to the USAF customer in the 1990s, contained analogue-based head-up displays. Rockwell Collins is on contract to C-130J OEM Lockheed Martin, which in turn is on contract to its USAF customer, to replace the obsolete legacy-era HUDs with a digital version. Initial deliveries of the digital HUDs are expected in 2020.
Marc Ayala, Director of Fixed Wing Business Development at the company’s Orlando, Florida office, pointed out during a demonstration at the corporate booth, the digital HUD has the ability to overlay imagery on top of graphics: “What we’re using at this conference is an enhanced vision sensor (EVS) image. This sensor is commercially available and is used on business and commercial jets.”
The EVS is a tri-band, infrared, forward looking sensor consisting of a long-wave, a short-wave and a visible light, which are merged together into an image. David Jackson, Principal Program Manager for Commercial Systems at Rockwell Collins, further explained the long-wave sensor picks up the ground effect (heat signature) through weather: “The short-wave sensor picks up the approach landing systemme, runway side lights and other lights through weather. The visible camera would pick up LED lights in adverse conditions.”
Mr Ayala continued: “The image is projected or overlaid onto the HUD to provide the pilot with a view out the front window which is perfectly aligned with the HUD symbology, which further perfectly matches up with what he or she would be able to see through adverse weather.”
Smoke, fog or similar phenomena are the types of adverse weather conditions the HUD and its EVS component are designed to permit the aircrew to “see through”.
Perhaps prompting the military sector’s interest in this technology was the US Federal Aviation Administration’s recently issued rules, which permit an operator with a HUD and EVS installed together, to descend all the way to the runway if the runway environment is available on the EVS, or evident to the naked eye.
Rockwell Collins has delivered HUDs to diverse civil sector customers for different aircraft since the 1980s.
The digital HUDs with EVS are designed to meet the US Air Force customer’s emerging requirements for its C-130J aircrews to more accurately and completely see a drop zone, runway, target or other venues in a C-130J’s mission set.