NBAA Convention News

Heads Up Technologies End-to-end Fiber-Optic Cabin Now Flying

 - October 19, 2013, 9:30 AM
The Clarity cabin management system in new Cessna jets is built on a Heads Up Technologies fiber-optic backbone.

Heads Up Technologies, now seeing the rewards of massive new product development over the past several years, is highlighting the first full, end-to-end fiber-optic business jet cabin at this year’s convention (Booth No. N1421).

“We’re in a unique position,” said president, CEO and founder Rob Harshaw. “We’ve added 60 new line items this year alone and with revenue in 2013 already up considerably, we’re seeing the return on that investment.”

The highlight of that development program is cabin management and flight entertainment systems, which he said are “relatively new areas for us.” The Heads Up fiber-optic backbones for Cessna’s Clarity cabin management and entertainment systems are already being delivered for installation in Cessna’s new Citation Sovereign and Citation X upgrades. Cessna recently announced the fiber-optic systems are also being specified as part of the upcoming Citation Latitude, Longitude and M2 jets, all under the OEM’s Clarity cabin technology system brand.

The end-to-end fiber-optic technology is high-definition throughout, including connections to the Blu-ray player and moving-map display. And the moving-map includes multiple new layers, such as points of interest, added Harshaw.

The fiber-optic package also includes components to interface with copper wiring for such cabin items as coffee makers and lighting. The wireless capability of the Clarity system is “device-agnostic,” meaning the cabin management and entertainment systems will interface with any tablet, laptop or smartphone, regardless of brand.

One of the key benefits of the Heads Up fiber-optic backbone is that the system is easily upgradeable. “Fiber-optics really allow that,” Harshaw explained, “because it has so much bandwidth, you can send dozens of Blu-ray movies down that signal fiber. As new technology comes out, you may have to add one component versus throwing away the whole system.” The other advantage is that fiber-optics don’t emit electromagnetic interference, and thus no heavy shielding is needed. “It saved a ton of weight over existing systems,” he said.

Also featured at NBAA is Heads Up’s new generation of cabin LED lighting. It includes accent lighting and is no longer a down- or up-wash but a true overhead lighting system that illuminates the entire cabin, explained Harshaw.

He further noted that Heads Up has been on the leading edge of LED development, starting with the first Citation Sovereign to come off the assembly line. “Cessna was the first company to deliver every aircraft with LED cabin lighting, and we also provided the first LED lighting on Beechcraft’s King Air line, the 350 model. We use lighting to enhance the size and feel of the interior.” One of the ways that Heads Up does this is by controlling the dimmer systems so that LED lights behave like incandescent lights, where the color temperature drops as the lights are dimmed. “This is done through integration with the cabin management system,” he said.

On the new Sovereign, Heads Up also manufactures the LED emergency egress lights, air stair lights and threshold lights. The jet’s cockpit features Heads Up side-emitting LEDs on the cockpit flood light and speaker assembly, designed to produce a soft, uniform glow and less glare at night, according to Harshaw. Glareshield lights are molded into a housing that conforms to the glareshield’s shape, and ice-detect lights are fitted into custom housings “designed to blend with the glareshield’s organic lines,” he added. Pilots will appreciate the new LED map lights, which are dimmable and also produce an approach-chart-sized spotlight, he noted, “perfect for reducing stray light while reading charts or maps yet maintaining the pilot’s night vision.”

The Cessna CitationJets employ many similar LED lights as well as Heads Up’s LED wing inspection lights, landing and taxi lights and empennage logo lights.

Heads Up Technologies started by manufacturing voice checklist systems, and these still sell today, according to Harshaw. Another pioneering product was development of the XM satellite receiver with weather datalink capability, which Heads Up makes for Rockwell Collins, Avidyne, Honeywell and other avionics manufacturers. “We’re very much a solution-driven company,” Harshaw said. “We focus on enhancing our customer’s brand. It helps them come back to us to solve more problems.”