Pro Line Fusion builds on years of avionics research

 - November 5, 2007, 6:24 AM

Rockwell Collins is applying years of flight-test research to its new Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system by combining computer-generated synthetic scenes with infrared enhanced-vision views on the primary flight displays and HUD. The goal, the company proclaims, is to give business jet crews the ability to “go anywhere, anytime.”

The refinements represent the biggest technology leap forward for Rockwell Collins since the company introduced the Pro Line 21 integrated avionics system more than a decade ago. In fact, Pro Line Fusion seeks to build on some of the early promises of Pro Line 21 that never quite made it into production. Additional technologies Collins hopes to bring to Pro Line Fusion, for example, include voice recognition, advanced flight planning tools and surface-guidance cues, company officials said.

“Pro Line Fusion has been generated from a set of technologies that we have been working on for many years,” said Tim Rayl, senior director of business and regional systems marketing for Rockwell Collins. Now those technologies are all coming together. “If you start thinking about what synthetic vision really is from
a hardware standpoint, it involves advanced processing capability and database management, large, high-resolution flight displays and a fiber-optic databus.” With the technology pieces in place, fused synthetic- and enhanced-vision views, he said, are possible for the first time.

Selected by Bombardier for the Global 5000 and Global Express XRS, Pro Line Fusion has emerged as a formidable competitor to Honeywell’s Primus Epic avionics, also introduced more than 10 years ago but substantially upgraded since then. The Collins system will feature the same high-resolution 15-inch-diagonal LCD displays that are destined for the Boeing 787, integrated with Collins’ LCD-based head-up guidance system (HGS) and Multi- Scan weather radar. Behind the scenes, AFDX Ethernet networking technology applied in the 787 and Airbus A380 will be combined with powerful computer processors, graphics adapters and mass storage file servers as the core building blocks for a new generation of avionics.

The Power Behind Global Vision
Migrating in the Global line from six CRT screens to four large-format LCDs will allow Bombardier to offer the full range of Pro Line Fusion features in its top-of-the-line models. Called the Bombardier Global Vision flight deck, the system will include a new LCD head-up guidance system from Rockwell Collins and a CMC Electronics SureSight enhanced-vision system, as well as a sleek cockpit layout with leather seating and other ergonomic enhancements developed for Bombardier by an outside design firm.

Bombardier had long been seeking a replacement for the original Honeywell Primus 2000XP avionics in the Global family, which was based on older CRT technology.
While rival manufacturers Gulfstream and Dassault opted to bring versions of the Honeywell Primus Epic avionics systems to their top models, Bombardier chose instead to switch suppliers from Honeywell to Rockwell Collins. Bombardier and Collins began working closely on the project in 2005, with the official contract award coming in January 2006 (but not officially acknowledged until this September at the NBAA Convention).

The supplier change means that all of Bombardier’s top models from the Learjet 60XR through the Global Express XRS will roll out of the factory with Rockwell Collins avionics systems, leaving the Learjet 40 series the lone holdover on the lower end of the Bombardier product line still delivered with Honeywell avionics.

Certification of the Global Vision cockpit is planned to occur in 2010. The first equipped airplanes will go to their owners the following year. Initial functionality will include SVS and EVS as stand-alone features, advanced graphical flight planning and a new version of the Integrated Flight Information System that adds surface-guidance functions using data culled from airport charts. The system will also introduce an integrated CDU for performing flight management and planning features, with pages organized by phase of flight.

Like the PlaneView and EASy cockpits adopted by Gulfstream and Dassault, Global Vision eliminates the traditional FMS control display unit, according to David Wu, director of flight deck systems marketing for Rockwell Collins. Instead, the Global cockpits will incorporate two multifunction keyboards and cursor trackballs that interface with the flight displays. The result will be a simplified and streamlined workspace that flight crews will find more intuitive and easier to navigate. “Currently with the Pro Line 21 FMS we have about 86 CDU pages,” Wu said. “That has been consolidated down to around 11 integrated CDU pages–or flight planning pages–in Pro Line Fusion. That’s a dramatic reduction in the amount of memorization required on the part of the pilots.”

Later versions of the Global Vision flight deck will blend the SVS and EVS views. During early trials of the technology with NASA, Rockwell Collins demonstrated a concept that presented an EVS camera view in the center of the primary flight display or HUD with the SVS view surrounding it. The eventual goal of developers is to fuse the two images so that they appear as a single, unified view of the world ahead of the airplane.

Global Vision will support WAAS LPV (lateral precision with vertical guidance) approach capability and RNP (required navigation performance) operations at the time of certification, Wu said. The basic system will also include a wireless interface for updating onboard databases as well as two variants of datalink to support CPDLC (controller-pilot datalink communications) for Fans (future air navigation system) and the Link 2000+ program in Europe.

ADS-B Transmit
ADS-B transmit capability will be available at entry into service, with a path for additional ADS-B features planned to be developed later on. Wu said the Global Vision cockpit will also include an automated crew alerting system (CAS) that can call up the appropriate checklist page whenever the system generates a CAS message. Weather downlinks available with Global Vision will include XM WX Satellite Weather and the Universal Aviation & Weather service, he added.

Boosting the overall level of integration in the system, computation of HUD functions will be hosted in the avionics cabinets. As a result, HUD-like symbology displayed on the head-down displays will be synchronized, including the use of a flight-path vector symbol on the PFD instead of a traditional V-bar flight director. The HUD’s EVS, meanwhile, will provide operational benefits by allowing the pilots to continue from 200 feet above touchdown to 100 feet if the airport environment can be seen using the EVS. The PFD, said Wu, will include SVS and EVS, and so will the HUD–eventually. “We’re still working through the details” of how a virtual SVS view could be presented on the HUD without blocking the pilot’s view of the real world, he said.

Fusing the synthetic- and enhanced-vision views will present certification challenges to designers, but Wu said Collins is confident the concept is certifiable based on the prototyping and flight testing that has been completed so far. Beyond the testing that Collins has done with NASA and the FAA, a limited number of trials have been conducted with Bombardier. MultiScan weather radar, meanwhile, has been tested globally in a leased Boeing Business Jet to allow developers to learn more about subtleties in different geographic regions.

Even with the introduction of a next-generation cockpit and a significant branding effort to go with it, Pro Line 21 isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, some of the technology that will appear in Pro Line Fusion will reemerge as “technology insertions” in existing Pro Line 21 cockpits. It is even conceivable that a new airplane design could receive Pro Line 21. “There’s still quite a bit of life left in Pro Line 21,” Wu said.