NBAA Convention News

Honeywell’s IntuVue glimpses 3-D weather

 - September 30, 2008, 7:50 AM

Honeywell has unveiled its IntuVue line of airborne weather radars as the rebranded extension of the company’s RDR-4000 radar previously selected for the Airbus A380 and Gulfstream G650.  

What makes the IntuVue radar series different from previous-generation Honeywell radars is its use of so-called volumetric scanning techniques to search the sky from the ground to 60,000 feet, enter that information into a database and then provide a three-dimensional view of the weather, even keeping it on the radar display as storm cells slide behind the airplane.

The IntuVue radar completes 18 vertical scans across a 180-degree horizontal sweep of the sky per cycle and stores what it sees in its memory. On the radar display, weather appears in a traditional top-down view as well as vertically on a separate portion of the display, providing a more complete view of weather as the airplane maneuvers around cells. The 3-D volumetric scanning technique Honeywell uses collects all scans and puts them in a buffer that can store data for as long as it’s needed.

The radar also automatically removes ground clutter by comparing radar returns against an internal EGPWS terrain database. Position and heading inputs are validated against the terrain data so that all the pilots ever see are weather returns–
unless they purposely want to see the ground instead. The radar has a ground-mapping feature that will let the crew “paint” a mountain or shoreline if they choose. The IntuVue radar also incorporates turbulence detection and, as an option, predictive wind-shear alerting.

A Radar that Remembers

Pilots flying with the IntuVue radar will need to forget some old assumptions about radar technology, as well as train their minds to process the radar’s advanced symbology. In auto mode, for example, the radar analyzes the data in its 3-D buffer to show returns that are relevant to the airplane’s flight path (compared against the FMS flight plan) in solid colors just like a traditional weather radar. But it also shows weather that is deemed to pose no imminent danger in cross-hatched colors. This technique provides the pilots with an intuitive 3-D view in which only the weather they need to worry about is shown in solid colors. Radar returns that are above or below them are shown with the cross-hatching.

Perhaps the most useful feature of the IntuVue radar is the vertical profile mode, which presents a cutaway view of storm cells, allowing pilots to determine a storm’s height quickly. Besides allowing the pilots to avoid a storm, the information is also an indicator of the cell’s strength and danger. Honeywell says the IntuVue weather radar’s volumetric 3-D scanning and pulse compression technologies provide a more complete view of the weather across a claimed 320-nm detection range ahead of the aircraft. The system is even designed to compensate for the curvature of the earth, designers say.

Honeywell says it plans to introduce two more IntuVue radars in the next three to four years targeted as replacements for older Primus weather radars. The company is also planning a smaller and lighter version for the very light jet market.  

During a recent flight demonstration of the radar over Florida in Honeywell’s Convair CV-580, the IntuVue radar’s penchant for staying clear of storm cells and turbulence was put on display. In fact, most of the flight was smooth in spite of the thunderstorms that blanketed much of the state on the day of the demo flight. The Convair crew was able to skirt the storms thanks to the system’s vertical display capability, which combines weather and terrain data in intuitive horizontal and vertical views. For a more tactical weather view, the pilots selected individual slices of the airspace, including specific range, azimuth or altitude displays, allowing the Convair to dissect large storm cells.

Designed to be fully automatic most of the time, the IntuVue radar does not require manual adjustments to the system or antenna for operation. To help reduce workload, general weather detection is based on flight path data. IntuVue is the first radar system certified to the FAA’s new enhanced turbulence detection minimum operational performance standard (Mops), and it kept the Convair pilots better informed during the demonstration about the potential location of turbulence, areas of which were shown on the radar display in magenta. As a result, the demo flight was surprisingly smooth.

While the enhanced turbulence- detection capability of the IntuVue radar line improves on previous capabilities, it’s still not perfect. For example, it can’t see water vapor that is moving sideways (as opposed to toward the radar antenna) and it cannot detect clear-air turbulence. But because of the increased detection accuracy and the ability to detect turbulence at lower reflectivity levels, Honeywell designers say there are fewer false alerts with the new radar. Honeywell estimates that turbulence-related incidents cost airlines more than $4 billion a year resulting from required damage inspections, delays and injuries to passengers and crew.