Saab fills gap between HUDs, helmet displays

 - July 7, 2008, 10:12 AM

New from Saab Avitronics is the RIGS head-up display, which the company is developing to provide a cost-effective multipurpose display to aid pilots of both helicopters and light aircraft. RIGS was launched at last October’s National Business Aviation Association Convention, and made its debut in the defense world at Eurosatory last month. Saab reports keen interest from both the business aviation and military helicopter worlds, highlighting its versatility.

RIGS was created to fill a gap in flight display technology. Existing head-up display designs are simply too big for installation in helicopters and smaller aircraft, while the helmet-mounted displays in combat helicopters are too expensive to be fitted to utility types. The very few non-helmet sighting units that are available offer a very narrow field of view and are not suitable as flight aids.

The system comprises a single electronics unit and a compact optical unit mounted above the windscreen, with the display projecting downward. It can be installed as a standalone unit, or easily integrated with the aircraft’s systems, and can be used with a variety of sensors.

The wide field of view (30 by 22 degrees) is linked to the standard field of vision of electro-optical viewing systems (EVS). RIGS allows EVS imagery to be presented in front of the pilots, allowing them to see through fog, dust, blowing snow, weather and smoke, and at night. This “window” through visibility-reducing conditions provides greater levels of safety, and is of particular use to helicopter pilots as it overcomes brownout/whiteout problems.

A wide range of other data can be presented, on their own or simultaneously. As well as basic flight information (airspeed, attitude, altitude, heading and so forth), the HUD can be used for navigation, approach and instrument landing information. In the military arena, it can be used for weapons sighting and be equipped to generate simulations of weapons firing for training. It can also present terrain information, which can help pilots avoid controlled flight into terrain.

A prototype RIGS installation was tested last year in a Eurocopter Fennec helicopter and is due to be certified as flight-safe in 2009. The system is ready for production and is due to be tested in a number of different platforms. AgustaWestland and Eurocopter are both very interested in offering the system as a customer option for their helicopters.