Synthetic Vision: New Findings, Standards and Research



New Findings, Standards, and Research
by Woodrow Bellamy
Synthetic Vision Baseline
(Blue over Brown)
Synthetic Vision with color gradient
(Linear Blue Color Progression from Ocean to Sky)
Synthetic Vision with Texture
(Checkerboard Texture Over Synthetic Ocean)
The study placed 12 different evaluation pilots through 75 flight trials with two different scenarios and three different display concepts:
The Ultimate in Situational Awareness
Synthetic Vision technology has made rapid advances in the vivid 3D representation of terrain, bodies of water, obstacles and other real world environmental information that is critical to a pilot’s success.

Government industry initiatives, research and flight trials are demonstrating the new aircraft operational capabilities being opened by the use of Synthetic Vision technology. And engineers, pilots and researchers are continuing to improve the new ability of the technology to provide operational benefits by studying and analyzing the various elements of synthetic vision displays and how they can be most effective in different phases of flight.

Last year for example, NASA began a simulator study using four 15 inch Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) to test different display architectures and concepts. The agency was looking to evaluate data taken from a Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) accident study for evidence of the ability of Synthetic Vision technology to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) and Unusual Attitude Recovery (UAR) situations in flight, which CAST found to be a contributing factor to 40 percent of aircraft accidents that occurred between 2001 and 2011.

According to the study described by NASA’s Langley Research Engineering team, the pilots performed a set of 25 Unusual Attitude Recovery (UAR) scenarios and another a set of fifty Attitude Memory Recall Tasks (AMRT). At the conclusion of each trial, EPs were asked to complete a set post-run questionnaires.

Results presented by NASA at a May 2016 Department of Defense Human Factors Engineering Technical Advisory Group Meeting, showed that the SV displays with color and texture, and featuring a flight path vectoring icon known as a Background Attitude Indicator (BAI), were most preferred by the evaluation pilots, all of which had Air Transport Pilot’s licenses and instrument ratings.

Background Attitude Indicator

Kyle Ellis, an aerospace research engineer at NASA Langley, said the agency’s aeronautical engineering research team is seeking to find the optimum SV display setup and representation of critical flight environment information for pilots.

What we’re trying to find is the optimum level of texture and coloring on the display

- Kyle Ellis, aerospace research engineer at NASA Langley

“What we’re trying to find is the optimum level of texture and coloring on the display, where does the shading come from in terms of providing not too much texture that it’s difficult to read the instrument, but just enough so that it provides a realistic scene for the pilot to create the virtual VMC type conditions. Even without any view out the window we want the SV system to be something that’s representative of what it would look like out the window so that the transition basically doesn’t exist anymore,” said Ellis.

Primus Epic® software-based avionics, the core of our cockpit systems and products, offers pilots unprecedented situational awareness, advanced flight deck functionality, enhanced safety, and increased aircraft value. Our SmartView Synthetic Vision System synthesizes key flight information from multiple sources and presents it to the pilots in one comprehensive and easy-to-understand picture.

Click on the videos below to learn about our Primus Epic® cockpit systems:

What do pilots think?

What do business aviation pilots think of this? We talked to U.S.-based business aviation pilots to gain their thoughts about the use of new synthetic vision technology and how it can benefit them during various phases of flight.

Mike O’Keefe, senior vice president of aircraft sales at Florida-based Banyan Air Services, and also an instrument and seaplane rated ATP holder with 35 years of flying experiences, and is currently flying a Honda Jet, which provides options to turn Synthetic Vision on or off.

“Where it really is beneficial is when you’re in the terminal environment, on the approach, or especially when you’re in mountainous terrain. Having that synthetic vision is a tremendous tool for keeping you out of the way of mountains,” said O’Keefe who also uses SV when flying around lakes to provide alerts of radio antennas and other obstacles he’s encountered before.

Michael Gerber, director of operations for Las Vegas-based private charter operator NV Jets flies Lear Jets and admits to being an “old school pilot,” who sees the benefits in Synthetic Vision technology, as long as pilots maintain manual flying skills.

“With all of the color that’s been added it’s amazing how you can see mountains and the runway centerline, with everything out in front of you,” said Gerber.

Where it really is beneficial is when you’re in the terminal environment, on the approach, or especially when you’re in mountainous terrain.

“However, the levels of automation in synthetic vision and other components of the EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrumentation System), is that the automation has become a crutch for some pilots. A lot of them have not had to plan descents simple easy things like a 3 to 1 descent or 2 to 1 descent other than maybe once in flight school or maybe one time getting their private, one time getting their instrument ratings, and because they don’t keep those skills sharp anymore they rely on the automation. We need to be sure that the manual skills are still there in case of failure,” he said.

Copyright © 2016. Access Intelligence, LLC.