Bombardier eager for EVS introduction

 - January 31, 2007, 5:53 AM

Certification of the infrared enhanced vision system (EVS) for the Bombardier Global Express XRS–said to be “imminent” at press time–will close an important technology gap between Gulfstream and Bombardier, head-to-head competitors in the ultra-long-range business jet market.

The rival airframe makers have been locked for the past decade in a competition to offer buyers the “ultimate” in private air transportation. Recently the competition has turned to performance improvements and the addition of advanced electronic systems in the cockpit and cabin. One of the most important and innovative of
the technology upgrades for these globe-girdling jets is the integration of infrared cameras with head-up displays, a marriage that allows pilots for the first time to see through darkness and low visibility.

Perhaps as important for Bombardier, the addition of EVS to the company’s line will allow the sales staff to counter Gulfstream’s marketing claims, which herald the Savannah, Ga. company’s airplanes as the “most technologically advanced in the world.”

After introducing the original Gulfstream V and Global Express in the mid-1990s, the airframe makers set about adding a wide array of avionics and cabin electronics improvements to their respective lines, culminating with certification of Gulfstream’s G550 and its Kollsman EVS, high-speed Broad Band Multi Link Internet service for the passenger compartment and Honeywell Primus Epic PlaneView avionics.

Clearly, Bombardier has been eager to match–and where possible exceed–Gulfstream on the high-technology frontier. The company has made several improvements in the cockpit and cabin, but so far the decision to add EVS to the line has been the most readily apparent cue that Bombardier plans to go toe to toe with Gulfstream in areas it views as necessary and appropriate, in spite of high development costs.

Gulfstream is the only OEM currently offering a certified EVS, but several business jet makers are exploring the technology. In addition to Bombardier’s recent certification efforts, Dassault, Boeing Business Jets and Cessna are also close to bringing infrared sensors to certain models. The FAA allows lower takeoff and landing minimums for HUD/EVS-equipped airplanes built by Gulfstream, and will do the same for Dassault, Bombardier and Boeing Business Jets, which use HUD-based EVS designs. Cessna, meanwhile, will use an EVS sensor mated to a multifunction display, a design not approved for the takeoff and landing credits.

Safety and Efficiency Benefits
The major component of EVS is its tiny infrared sensor, usually a cryogenically cooled camera that marries a view of the runway and surrounding terrain to the HUD. Enhanced-vision technology is intended to improve situational awareness, which safety experts believe will translate to a reduction in the number of accidents, particularly during the approach and landing phase. The FAA apparently agrees that the technology offers safety benefits based on its recent rule change, which allows HUD/EVS-equipped aircraft to continue below standard Category I ILS minimums of 200-feet height above touchdown to 100 feet as long the pilot can see the runway environment using the EVS.

Bombardier is developing its enhanced vision system with partners Thales Avionics of France and CMC Electronics of Montreal for the Global line. The technology will be standard equipment on the Global Express XRS and an option on the Global 5000.
Current operators of HUD-equipped Global Expresses will be able to retrofit the equipment, which will sell for around $500,000 for the EVS sensor and related electronics, but not including installation costs. The Bombardier EVS (BEVS) will be available for retrofit through the Bombardier Business Aviation Services network. Texas Instruments’ flight department is the launch customer.

Flight testing of the BEVS has been in progress for some time. The development phase reached an important milestone late last year with Canadian certification of the EVS sensor system. Bombardier expects full FAA and Transport Canada certification for the BEVS this month.

Bombardier based its decision to develop an EVS on a survey a few years back of 15 Global Express operators, which showed that two-thirds of them were “very interested” in enhanced-vision technology and another 20 percent were “interested, but hesitant.” Customers also listed EVS as their top priority on a list of eight issues/
actions for the Global Express.

Operators cited improved situational awareness, particularly for operations at unfamiliar airports and during low-visibility operations, as the main advantage. Being able to see other aircraft, vehicles and obstacles on the runway, both during final approach and taxi, were also mentioned frequently as benefits of EVS in the survey.

That was good news for Bombardier executives, who apparently felt increasing pressure to match Gulfstream and its FAA certification of the Kollsman EVS, which had been receiving rave reviews from the aviation press and pilots.

The Bombardier EVS for the Global line integrates the airplane’s Thales head-up display (said to be 28 percent larger than any other commercially available HUD) with the CMC SureSight forward-looking infrared sensor mounted in the nose. Additional pilot controls are being added to the existing HUD control panel.

The EVS image will also be transmitted to an existing multifunction display or flight management system control display unit, so that the copilot will be able to monitor the same view the pilot is seeing through the HUD. Total system weight (HUD and infrared camera, but not including wiring) is expected to be 97 pounds.

Bombardier said it selected Thales because of its integration and technological expertise as well as its experience on the Global Express HUD and flight control system. The Canadian company chose CMC Electronics as the EVS supplier because of the claimed superior sensitivity of its infrared sensor, as well as the product’s compact size and light weight.

Turning Night into Day
EVS can “see” through darkness and most types of fog and precipitation. The technology presents a “picture” image on the HUD combiner of the airport or terrain environment ahead. Designers say that depending on the type of visibility obscuration, an EVS-augmented HUD could, under 750-foot RVR visibility conditions, provide the pilot with an image of the airport environment as far as two miles ahead
of the aircraft.

The EVS image appears as a background to the guidance data on the HUD combiner. This picture is presented at the same scale and orientation as the guidance data and outside surface features. Therefore, there is nothing ambiguous about the EVS image on the HUD–what the pilot sees is the real world ahead.