Working to make flying safer, more than a dozen NASA, airline,industry and government pilots are testing technology to"synthetically" give pilots a clear view of their surroundings.
Technicians equipped a Boeing 757 jet with sophisticated cockpitdisplays and radar equipment that give pilots clear electronic picturesof what's outside, regardless of weather or time of day. The jet isbased at NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. The AirborneResearch Integrated Experiments System is flying over NASA's WallopsFlight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., to test the Synthetic Vision andEnhanced Vision Systems.
Synthetic Vision combines Global Positioning System satellitesignals with an on board photo-realistic database to paint a picture ofterrain for the crew. Also on board the jet is an enhanced weatherradar capability that can help pilots spot traffic and obstacles thataren't part of the Synthetic Vision terrain computerized atlas. NASAresearchers developed the system. NASA is testing this version of"enhanced vision" to determine if it can effectively fill in the gapsand help pilots see hazards, such as traffic on the runway or even acellular tower recently added to the landscape.
"We've added new software to the X-band weather radar that's alreadyon many airliners to produce a more detailed picture of what the radarwould normally see," said Steve Harrah, Synthetic Vision sensors lead."This helps verify the accuracy of the Synthetic Vision terrain displayand gives the pilot a more complete picture of what's on the ground."
Included in the flight tests are Synthetic Vision and EnhancedVision cockpit displays developed by BAE Systems, Los Angeles, andNav3D Corporation, San Carlos, Calif. These displays use EnhancedVision technology presented on a head-up display directly in front ofthe pilot's eyes.
It supplements the on-board computerized terrain atlas provided onthe head-down display. BAE Systems is assessing the effectiveness offusing Forward Looking Infrared images with active millimeter waveradar pictures for enhanced vision. Millimeter wave radar produces amore detailed image than X-band radar, but the system doesn't have asmuch range.
During the tests pilots from the airlines, the Federal AviationAdministration and aircraft manufacturers will fly the 757 on approachto Wallops. On most research scenarios the front windows of theevaluation pilot will be blocked. The evaluation pilot will have torely on the synthetic vision and enhanced vision displays.
Traffic or obstacles may be on the runway, unbeknownst to the testpilot. If the displays work, the pilot will be able to see the trafficand avoid it. Otherwise, the safety pilot, who is also in the cockpitand always has an unobstructed view, will take over.
Other industry partners participating in the research include TheBoeing Company, Hampton, Va.; Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; andRTI, Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Synthetic Vision Systems research is funded by the NASA AeronauticsResearch Mission Directorate's Aviation Safety and Security Program.The program consists of a partnership that includes NASA, the FAA,aircraft manufacturers, airlines and the Department of HomelandSecurity. Its goal is to reduce the fatal aircraft accident rate,protect air travelers and the public from security threats.
Researchers at five NASA centers are working to develop advanced,affordable technologies to make flying safer and more secure at:Langley; Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.; Dryden FlightResearch Center, Edwards, Calif.; Glenn Research Center, Cleveland; andthe Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
For information about NASA's Aviation Safety and Security Program on the Web, visit:
http://avsp.larc.nasa.govFor information about NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, visit:
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