Business & GA, Connectivity

10 Avionics Technologies, Concepts Being Researched Right Now

By Woodrow Bellamy III | August 14, 2017

Pilot, ALIAS co-pilot in 737 simulator. Photo: Aurora Flight Sciences.

Pilot, ALIAS co-pilot in 737 simulator. Photo courtesy of Aurora Flight Sciences

Those who work within the various segments of the global aerospace industry know the importance of staying up to date on new technologies, procedures and concepts on the horizon. We compiled a list of 10 different avionics technologies and concepts being researched right now. What did we miss? Tweet us at @AvionicsMag to let us know!

1. Space-Based ADS-B for Reduced Oceanic Separation

Iridium NEXT satellite. Photo: Iridium.

Iridium NEXT satellite. Photo: Iridium.

The FAA is developing a business case to establish reduced separation requirements for airplanes flying in U.S.-controlled oceanic airspace. A government-industry body, the Enhanced Surveillance Task Group (ESTG) has determined that the way to do this is by introducing space-based ADS-B into oceanic airspace controlled by the FAA. The questions now — how to pay for that and how to prove it would be effective, considering the mixed avionics equipage status of aircraft flying in U.S. oceanic airspace.

2. Electric Hybrid Aircraft

Airbus Group s E-Fan technology demonstrator became the world s first all-electric two engine aircraft taking off by its own power to successfully cross the Channel on 10 July 2015, some 106 years after Louis Bleriot epic flight. Here just after the landing in Calais, Airbus Group Chief Technology Officer Jean Botti (right) welcomes the test pilot Didier Esteyne.

Airbus Group s E-Fan technology demonstrator became the world s first all-electric two engine aircraft taking off by its own power to successfully cross the Channel on 10 July 2015, some 106 years after Louis Bleriot epic flight. Here just after the landing in Calais, Airbus Group Chief Technology Officer Jean Botti (right) welcomes the test pilot Didier Esteyne. Photo: Airbus Group.

At the 2017 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Aviation Forum in June, Airbus CTO Paul Eremenko gave a presentation discussing how electric hybrid propulsion aircraft technology could become a future disruptive concept for commercial aviation. Airbus is working toward the development of a demonstrator aircraft known as the “E-Fan X,” powered by a two-megawatt motor, with the goal of evaluating its ability to power a future hybrid commercial single aisle aircraft.

3. Autonomous Taxi

Boeing 787 Simulator. Photo: Boeing.

Boeing 787 Simulator. Photo: Boeing.

At the 2017 Paris Air Show, Boeing VP of Product Development Mike Sinett outlined some of the future commercial aircraft concepts the OEM is currently researching. One of those concepts involves the use of an autonomous taxi system. According to Sinnett, researchers are looking at the combination of using visual sensors, fused with data on the airplane, ADS-B In information and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) info as possible future solutions.

4. Open Mission Systems (OMS) Software

USAF F-16.

USAF F-16.

In April, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and Calspan Corp., announced the completion of a demonstration of an experimental F-16 aircraft that acted as a surrogate unmanned combat air vehicle in a dynamic threat environment during an air-to-ground strike mission. AFRL is evaluating the future use of open mission systems (OMS) software to rapidly introduce more autonomous capabilities on military aircraft.

5. Internet Protocol Suite

EPA GERMANY INTERNET CYBER SECURITY POL COMPUTING & IT ESPIONAGE & INTELLIGENCE DEU BR

The Airline Executive Engineering Committee (AEEC) Internet Protocol Suite (IPS) for Aeronautical Safety Services is currently developing a plan to define the future use of a new network infrastructure for aviation safety services communications. IPS will be designed to provider better air-to-ground data communication performance than is possible with legacy aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) network.

6. Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6)

Industrial Internet. Photo: GE.

Industrial Internet. Photo: GE.

At the 2017 annual Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) and Avionics Maintenance Committee (AMC) general session in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the AEEC adopted a new activity: the development of an industry roadmap for the use of IPv6 in air-to-ground data communications used by onboard avionics systems. IPv6 is the next-generation IP designed to replace IPv4 and will allow more users and devices to communicate over the internet by using bigger numbers to create IP addresses. Whereas IPv4 addresses were 32 bits long, IPv6 addresses will be 128 bits long, according to Apple.

7. Supersonic Avionics

Supersonic Aircraft. Photo: NASA.

Supersonic Aircraft. Photo: NASA.

In June, Honeywell Aerospace’s Primus Epic avionics package completed a two-year test featuring predictive software and cockpit display technology designed to help pilots predict where and how sonic booms generated by aircraft flying faster than the speed of sound will impact populated areas located under their flight path.

8. Turning Airplanes into Communications Satellites

Airborne Wireless Network concept of operations.

Airborne Wireless Network concept of operations.

California-based Airborne Wireless Network wants to create a high-speed broadband airborne wireless network by linking commercial aircraft in flight. In May, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted AWN an experimental operation certification to develop the concept.

9. Neural Sensing

A demonstration of the use of human brain waves to provide inputs for flight controls inside of Honeywell's Advanced Technology lab for neural sensing technology. Photo: Honeywell Aerospace.

A demonstration of the use of human brain waves to provide inputs for flight controls inside of Honeywell's Advanced Technology lab for neural sensing technology. Photo: Honeywell Aerospace.

One of the most exciting research projects on the list comes from the Honeywell Aerospace advanced technology lab. Honeywell engineers are researching the use of human brain waves to provide inputs for flight controls in airplane cockpits. The last update on this concept was obtained by Avionics during a visit to Honeywell headquarters in 2016.

10. Robot Co-Pilot

Aurora's ALIAS technology. Photo: Aurora Flight Sciences.

Aurora's ALIAS technology. Photo: Aurora Flight Sciences.

While it may sound like a 2040s concept, Aurora Flight Sciences has already proven that a robot can autonomously land a Boeing 737-800NG in the simulator environment. Aurora has been one of the main companies participating in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program.

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