What are the benefits of enhanced and synthetic vision aboard a business jet? How has the development of FalconEye from Dassault upped the stakes for cockpit safety? Mario Pierobon explores…
Business aircraft mostly operate at small/medium airports. In degraded weather conditions (i.e., fog and snow), it is not usually possible to land at these airports because they’re not equipped with costly ground installations enabling CAT2 or CAT3 operations.
“The Business Aviation community has been looking for solutions with which aircraft can land in bad weather conditions, even at low-equipped airports, with the long-term goal of landing at any airport as if it were always a beautiful day,” vision systems technical expert at Dassault Aviation.
“As of now, they rely on enhanced vision system(EVS) and synthetic vision system (SVS) technologies.”
EVS is based mostly on infrared sensors and has been installed in the nose of business aircraft for 15 years in an attempt to operate at small/medium airports, even in degraded weather conditions, by showing EVS imagery in the head-up display (HUD) of the pilot.
“EVS enables enhancement to natural vision, providing a visual advantage over natural vision only. Dassault Aviation had its first EVS (CMC Electronics) certified on a Falcon 2000 in 2007,” says Turpin. “But current EVS technology still suffers from certain limitations. It is not able to see through clouds and provides only a limited visual advantage compared to the naked eye.
“So, during an approach performed with only EVS in low-visibility conditions, pilots see the required ground references only at the very end of the approach.”
While EVS has a (relatively) longer history, SVS technology has been integrated in business aircraft only during the last decade, and it is now witnessing some significant momentum. SVS enables pilots to gain an accurate idea of their surroundings, whether visibility outside the aircraft is good or not, through the ‘synthetization’ of key flight information.
“They do this by combining a database of topographical maps, the global positioning system (GPS) location of the aircraft and data from satellites”, offers Stephen Alcock, senior director, business leader for Business and General Aviation EMEAI at Honeywell Aerospace.
“For example, Honeywell’s SmartView SVS provides pilots with a natural and easy-to-understand depiction of terrain using 3D images and flight symbology on the primary flight display, ensuring it is right where the pilot needs it.
“It also provides useful features such as information about the airport and runway environment, including an extended course centreline and color-coding for absolute altitude terrain.
“These features and many more all increase situational awareness for pilots, and this is exactly what we want to achieve. At its core, an SVS is a safety system created to make flying safer and more enjoyable for pilots and passengers,” Alcock notes.
In the Business Aviation space, SVS is becoming increasingly popular as the demand continues to grow – and this is something that is being matched through the inclusion of the systems in new avionics and the ability to retrofit.
“For example, Gulfstream’s G500 features our SmartView SVS as part of the Primus Epic Gulfstream Symmetry cockpit. What’s special about this is not only is it the standard avionics system in the G500, the Symmetry cockpit features Honeywell’s touch-screen technology and is the first application to utilize this technology”, says Alcock.
Honeywell Synthetic Vision System
The Benefits of SVS
SVS provides greater benefit to pilots in poor visibility conditions than traditional systems by giving the pilot a view of terrain that would typically be obstructed. “They also provide great benefit to pilots when flying into unfamiliar airports by giving them a clear view of the runway and surrounding obstacles,” says Alcock.
“This can be advantageous for pilots who fly in and around mountainous terrain, often fly to unfamiliar airports or fly in areas known for low visibility.
“SVS do not just assist in the air, they are just as useful on the ground. They can be of great use at an airport where runway markings and other directional tools are limited or non-existent.
“Say you are at an unfamiliar rural airport with a sub-par runway, an SVS will take away some of the stress that a situation could cause, giving the pilot a visual they would not otherwise have.
“The importance of this increases when factors such as time of day and weather are included, as is true for situations in which the systems are already in use. Mobility in urban landscapes is going to include the issue of busier airspace the majority of the time, so if the pilot knows that static objects are taken care off then it allows them to place their focus on the changing situation they navigate”, says Alcock.
SVS Operation and Training
SVS utilizes software that uses 3D imaging to provide pilots with a clear and intuitive means of understanding their flying environment. This software utilizes a host of databases to generate a map on a designated display within the cockpit avionics systems.
“This passivity enhances safety for the pilot and allows the pilot to have a reduced workload mid-flight,” Alcock explains. “Such systems are designed to be as easy to understand as possible. There is quite simply no point in an SVS being difficult to understand as that will render the safety gains redundant.
“It is very much in the interests of the manufacturer, aircraft OEM and pilot to have a system they can glance at and understand with a quick look.
“If you think about the distraction that a bad satellite navigation system in a car can be and then compare that with a system that is simple, easy-to-read and provides you with everything you need to know the same principle applies to SVS, except everything is amplified by ten times.”
Regardless of the systems installed, pilots must be prepared for their flight ensuring items such as a physical chart are on board and that they have a back-up system for their route in case there is an outage mid-flight.
“In terms of the system itself, making sure that it’s up to date, along with all the other computer systems on the aircraft is really important,” Alcock elaborates. “This can be as simple as making sure the database the SVS operates from has their destination airport on, to checking the software across the airplane is current.”
SVS are a support to safety, but their use on-board does not replace any aspect of pilot training. “Pilots are still trained to use the technology as a backup and not as a sole source of information. Pilots should still have a good idea of where they are going, and what weather they will encounter en route and upon arrival,” Alcock highlights.
“At the end of the day, an SVS enhances a pilot’s vision of their surroundings and destination while reducing their workload and simplifying instrument flying, but it is nothing more than an aid,” he emphasizes.
“Dedicated training to ensure that a pilot is maximizing the capability that an SVS gives can only serve to enhance the safety benefit from the system.”
Development of Combined Vision
SVS is independent of weather conditions since it is based on GPS positioning and terrain/airport/obstacle databases embedded in the aircraft. “It provides very good global, situational awareness to pilots whatever the weather condition.
“But it is not possible to use only synthetic vision to land, since it does not provide a real, sensed image of the outside world. For instance, if an aircraft, vehicle or animal is on the runway SVS will not be able to see it”, argues Turpin.
Combining both EVS and SVS technologies has been targeted for many years by Business Aviation OEMs, but the concern has to do with how to integrate them together in the same image without confusing the pilot between the virtual world provided by SVS and the real world provided by EVS.
“Indeed, there is a potential safety concern with a CVS image: At the decision altitude of the approach, the pilot is required to see the needed ground references with natural vision or with the EVS to continue the approach,” explains Turpin.
“How can we be sure that the pilot will use the EVS and not the SVS part of the image to make this decision when a combined vision image is displayed in the HUD?”
Dassault has committed its effort during the last years to design, develop and certify the first Combined Vision System (CVS); a device called FalconEye.
“It has been developed in partnership with Elbit Systems”, Turpin offers. “In addition to a HUD with a large 40 x 30-degree field of view, the main FalconEye features include a new generation, multi-sensor EVS with high resolution and a large field of view, an SVS with several specific features that enable it to combine with EVS and to ease approaches in low-visibility conditions, and a Dassault Aviation patented CVS with built-in EVS and SVS.”
FalconEye is offered as an option on the Falcon 8X, the Falcon 2000S/LXS and the modernized version of the Falcon 900LX. Almost all Falcon 8X customers have selected FalconEye.
Earlier this year the Falcon 8X was certified by EASA and the FAA for an enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) capability that gives operational credit for poor visibility approaches down to 100ft, thereby improving access to airports in bad weather.
The new capability was certified for operational use following the completion of a joint EASA/FAA certification campaign earlier in 2018. EFVS to 100ft is expected to be approved for the Falcon 2000LX and Falcon 900LX shortly. On the Falcon 8X, FalconEye will also be qualified in dual HUD configuration.
“By providing the same information and heads-up views to both the flying and monitoring pilot, the dual HUD system will further improve crew coordination and safety,” explained Philippe Rebourg, project test pilot at Dassault Aviation. “In addition, based on the new EFVS FAA rules, EFVS to LAND operations will eventually be certified in dual HUD configuration.”
Dual HUD benefits include the use of HUD by pilots being made easier and better crew co-ordination.
“The pilot flying with HUD can be right seat or left seat and the pilot in the right seat can get used to the HUD before becoming a ‘left seat’ pilot. Moreover, the pilot monitoring has access to the same level of information as the pilot flying.
“Last, but not least, both pilots have their eyes outside during take-off and landing as the danger is often outside”, concludes Rebourg.
More information from www.dassaultfalcon.com or www.honeywell.com