BAE lines up OEMs in bid to certify Q-HUD late next year

 - June 2, 2009, 11:54 AM

BAE Systems has lined up a half dozen prospective applications for Q-HUD, a compact and lightweight head-up display for smaller business airplanes where space limits the use of overhead projection equipment. A firm commitment from one or more airframe makers could be imminent as BAE Systems works to complete certification of the product before the end of next year.

Q-HUD uses holographic wave-guide technology that “injects” the light image into the display glass, eliminating the need for a projection-lens configuration. It makes use of optics pioneered on the company’s helmet-mounted Q-Sight displays developed for the military. By eliminating the more costly optics that are part of existing HUDs, BAE claims to have “significantly” reduced the price for Q-HUD, making it affordable for much smaller aircraft.

The design of the Q-HUD’s optics allows for a larger field of pilot head movement while viewing the HUD. The system can also display synthetic-vision imagery and terrain data. BAE said that, mainly by virtue of its lower parts count, Q-HUD is more reliable than traditional systems, with a mean-time-between-failure rate of 20,000 hours, compared with rates for existing systems of between 2,000 and 4,000 hours.

Ric Morrow, BAE’s director for commercial avionics business development, said initial applications for Q-HUD will likely be for new-build aircraft, although there is potential for retrofitting the system. He indicated that the HUD is probably not a viable option for the current wave of very light jets, but that it might well be applicable to the next generation. “We see it as a product that will offer enhanced safety down the line,” he said.

BAE unveiled the system at the 2008 NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., and came away with nine nondisclosure agreements with aircraft makers. The major enticement for many, said BAE, is the Q-HUD’s compact size.

The condensed head-up display package is much less obtrusive in the cockpit and generates less heat, explained Paul Childs, BAE technology lead for the Q-HUD. The eye-motion box (the area in which the pilot can see the display) is significantly increased from the restricted space of around six by three by two inches that usually applies for traditional HUD systems in which the images are projected onto a combiner. At just over 20 pounds, the BAE system is half the weight of traditional HUD packages.

“Studies of around 600 incidents by the Flight Safety Foundation have shown that one third of accidents could have been prevented or at least positively influenced by a HUD,” said Childs. “In bad [visibility] conditions, pilots are trying to focus both outside the aircraft and on the displays below. By combining a HUD with an enhanced vision system we can give a real-world view in bad visibility.”