Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) and Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS) have moved beyond the Sci-Fi realm where they were first imagined. Today, they are necessary situational awareness and safety features in modern cockpits of General Aviation (GA) aircraft almost ready to move into the air transport arena.
Found a few years ago only on high-end, long-range business jets, EVS and SVS are now found in the cockpits of smaller jets, and single and twin-engine utility aircraft and helicopters. They are even making their way into the regional airline market. For the avionics providers, EVS and SVS are an integral part of new and upgraded avionics suites available in the aftermarket. Aircraft OEMs, responding to customer demands, are incorporating them as forward-fit in new business aircraft and in updates for their in-service aircraft. Completion centers are seeing a steady business in retrofitting earlier avionics platforms with these new features. The one territory not yet embarked upon is an EVS-SVS technology merge in a Combined Vision System (CVS), which would offer the safety and situational awareness benefits of both systems.
EVS Versus SVS
While SVS uses an upgradable database to portray recorded terrain features along and ahead of the aircraft’s flight path, EVS provides output from an infrared camera to penetrate fog and darkness, presenting a real-time picture of what is ahead of the plane. Although there are more SVS systems installed today on business and GA aircraft, EVS technology is just as mature. Gulfstream was the first to certify it for any civil aircraft back in 2001 — on a G-5.
“Initially we sold it as an STC [Supplemental Type Certificate], but once we understood the value of it, we elected to make it standard on all our large cabin aircraft,” says Mike Mena, director of advanced cockpit programs for Gulfstream Aerospace. The infrared camera, installed in the nose of the aircraft, projects an image onto the pilot’s Head-Up Display (HUD) that is conformal to the outside world. “It gives an outstanding image of the terrain in front of you and in low visibility conditions is able to cut through the fog and provide the image to the pilot in the event he can’t see,” Mena says.
Gulfstream has chosen to present its EVS on a Rockwell Collins (Flight Dynamics unit) HUD, while others display it head-down. “Right now it is the same HUD for the entire fleet and the HUD-EVS is even available on the (midsize) G280 as an option,” Mena says. He prefers the EVS on the HUD because the pilot can look out the window while still taking in airspeed, altitude and the flight path vector guidance for precision control, in addition to the enhanced vision.
|Difference between the view with EVS
and without EVS.
One advantage going forward with Enhanced and Synthetic Vision is the “credit” given by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to pursue lower landing minimums. In a recent notice of proposed rule making, the FAA would allow those operators with a qualified EFDS II (Enhanced Flight Display System) — which Gulfstream has — to continue the approach solely on the EFDS image and land using the system. “By using EVS on the HUD, you can continue below normal decision altitude — down to 100 feet using the EVS image alone — and then complete the landing with natural vision. However, with synthetic vision, which is not based on a real-time sensor, you cannot descend below published minimums,” Mena says.
Gulfstream has also worked with its large cabin avionics partner Honeywell to develop SVS that Honeywell calls Smart Vision, which displays on a 14-inch head-down Primary Flight Display (PFD) as part of Gulfstream’s Plane View avionics suite.
Another example is Dassault’s Falcon Jet, which has Synthetic Vision as an option on its head-down display (HDD) on all production Falcon 900 series, and its 2000 and 7X business jets as part of its EASy II avionics suite, says Woody Salant, director of avionics programs and pilot training for Dassault Falcon Jet. There are some 600 Falcons in service around the world with the EASy platform, he says. “Synthetic Vision is a game changer in terms of situational awareness,” Salant says. Even though displayed on the HDD, Dassault has chosen to harmonize it with the HUD. “You should be looking outside the cockpit when you are doing landings,” he says. He adds that in the new Falcon 5X, expected to enter service in 2017, SVS will be standard with the HUD. (Dassault is also known to be working on a combined EV-SV system that may be an option on the 5X or future aircraft.)
Astronics Corp’s Max-Vis-1500 EVS and its Max-Vis 600 are in service and being installed on a number of smaller corporate and GA twin and single-engine aircraft. It has supplemental type certificates (STCs) for King Air, Cessna 206 and several Falcon models (whose STC is owned by Duncan Aviation), and also for the Gulfstream G-3, 4,5 and Bombardier Global Express. Some are forward-fit, including those on the AgustaWestland helicopter. The company’s Max-Viz 600, a legacy system designed for smaller piston-type airplanes, is being flown on Challengers and is an option on the Cirrus and the Cessna Caravan. An STC is pending for the Pilatus PC-12.
|SVLM over DVT runway: how SVS would look
during landing with lower minimums.
The EVS “is an IR sensor that detects differences in temperature, so if you are flying at night, a mountain range heated during daytime will be visible to IR — so what we do is turn night into day,” says Grant Sumpter, MRO sales manager for Max-Vis, the Portland, Ore.-based unit of Astronics Corp. “But what we don’t do is see through a thick layer of marine fog, because we are an uncooled IR system.”
“Compared to SV, which provides a nice overview of the terrain, we give you the details of the terrain,” Sumpter says. “We’re in the ‘what if’ business — what if you had to put down at night — in that field are trees, rocks and maybe a pond. SV doesn’t show that. EV can show you a fuel truck, or construction equipment, somewhere on the field. And wildlife is something people are telling us a lot about. There may be a deer or something on that runway — I can see that,” he says. However, SVS and EVS work in concert, he believes, and many operators are opting for a combined system.
Initial deliveries of Garmin’s new G5000 platform were expected by the end of last year (2013) with Synthetic Vision standard on new aircraft. Its earlier G1000, G2000 and G3000 suites have been offered with SVS either standard or as an option. “What we see is that on the higher-end aircraft like Gulfstreams, Citation Sovereign, M2 and Lear 70/75, and the new Cessna Longitude and Latitude, [the aircraft OEM] make that standard. On the lower end, it is an option,” says Bill Stone, Garmin’s senior business development manager for avionics products.
Rockwell Collins has certified Synthetic Vision on is latest ProLine Fusion suites on Bombardier Global 5000 and 6000 platforms (both on the captain’s HUD and also on HDD as basic equipment), while some other 120 aircraft are in the certification process says Craig Peterson, director of avionics and flight controls for Rockwell Collins.
ProLine 21, Collins’ earlier platform, is in service worldwide on more than 6,000 aircraft, he says, and adds that the company is in the process of certifying a ProLine 21 retrofit solution that would offer SV to those aircraft, as well as on ProLine 21 systems still in production.
Peterson believes that SV technology promises to provide additional benefits in the form of lower approach minima necessary for airlines in making a value case for use of SV, and that the certification basis will need to be employed on a HUD.
Rockwell Collins makes a similar case for using EVS in combination with the HUD. “EVS brings the benefits of real-time thermal detection of the environment. But its downside,” he says, is that it is limited during heavy precipitation or other shrouding, and that in some cases newer (LED) technology runway lights requiring less power become “thermally invisible” to IR cameras. Rockwell Collins recently announced availability of a new product called EVS-3000 IR that is able to see into the energy spectrum emitted by LED lights.
While Combined Vision Systems (CVS) of a SVS-EVS fusion are envisioned in the future, Peterson says the Global G5000 and 6000 aircraft are equipped with SV both on the HUD and HDD, as well as an EV camera depicted on the HUD. This allows the crews to either look at the SV outside world or the EV world — however not in a combined system, but switching from one to the other. He says his company is following a roadmap that leads ultimately “to bringing a fused IR image and SV image together on a HUD — realizing the benefits of both systems.”
Honeywell traces its heritage in Synthetic Vision to its Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) product that now is a staple in the aviation world. As the product line evolved, “we put it on a PFD to provide a real-world, out the window view, so the pilot could have better situational awareness, especially at night and in the weather,” says Larry Surace, director of advanced safety features for Honeywell Aerospace.
Honeywell’s SmartView Synthetic Vision System is certified and currently in use with a number of platforms, including Gulfstream’s larger jets, the G450, 550 and 650 as part of Gulfstream’s PlaneView flight deck. It is also part of Dassault Falcon Jet’s EASy II platform available on the newer Falcon jets and is being integrated into the Pilatus PC-12. “SmartView combines terrain features, energy management, flight path vectors and runway approaches in 3-D format right in front of you on your display. You’re taking the HUD symbology and moving it head-down,” says Trish Ververs, Honeywell engineering fellow, advanced technology.
Honeywell is currently working with the FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on certification of SmartView to lower landing minimums with a goal of getting down to a 150-foot decision altitude initially. “That would allow a lot more landings than are currently being made,” Surace says.
Surace says that as SVS and EVS evolve, training is key. “Pilots today are different,” he says. “Folks coming into the cockpit in the next five to seven years are going to be coming out of the training schools having been trained in SV and coming to realize it and accept it.”
Honeywell is moving ahead on a CVS. “We have the depicted terrain from the database seamlessly interfacing it with the ‘out the window’ camera view, and we put that on our PFD with the navigational information,” Ververs says. “We’re working on it now and rapidly getting into a maturity state for both fixed-wing and helo.” The manufacturer is currently test flying the system on one of it planes. “I have seen the HW system — in fact I flew this week on their test aircraft. They are able to take the EV image almost like a picture within the SV,” Gulfstream’s Mena says.
Duncan Aviation, a major service and completion center, has completed a Falcon 900B retrofit with the new Universal EFI-890 cockpit, adding the Max-Viz EVS 1500 sensor along with Synthetic Vision. Duncan has completed some 15 EVS installations on F900s and Challengers, according to Gary Harpster, senior avionic sales rep. for Duncan. Harpster cited an operator flying an EVS-equipped Falcon 900B out of a Mexican airport in an area with frequent heavy fog. “With a lot of moisture in it, EVS doesn’t work so well. But the customer told me ‘it just works great’ helping pilots get in and out of that airport. … [pilots] tell you that Synthetic Vision is great for showing situational awareness in relationship to the terrain, but the EVS shows you the ‘real life’ situation,” Harpster says.
So which system is best? Harpster has asked that question to pilots before, and he says it really depends on the runway they fly into. “Some are very concerned flying into airports where there are animals on the runway and so EVS would be beneficial since you can see aircraft ahead of you that may not have their lights on. But as far as making sure you are in proper alignment to an airport, then the SV would kick in,” says Harpster. “I’d have a tough time picking between the two — I might just go for both of them — like on the Universal solution (on the Falcon 900B) we put the SV on there and gave you the EVS system as well,” says Harpster.
Elliott Aviation, based in Moline, Ill., has retrofitted more than 100 KingAir 90, 200 and 350 series aircraft with the Garmin G1000 avionics suite, which has SV as an option. “Out of the 110 airplanes we have converted with G1000, 99 percent accepted the SV option,” says Mark Wilken, director of avionics sales. Garmin’s G1000 flight deck integrates flight information features on a 15.1-inch MFD and two 10.4-inch PFDs. Customers include owner-operators, corporate flight departments, government special mission and medevac operators, and owners with aircraft to be sold.
While the Garmin upgrade costs about $350,000 the SV option costs $25,000. Being converted with the Universal EFI-890 suite, the Universal Vision One (SV) computer box is in the $60-$70,000 range according to Wilken, who is looking forward to Rockwell Collins’ introduction of Synthetic Vision for its ProLine 21 series cockpits in 2014. He said he is also awaiting the new Garmin G5000 cockpit scheduled for first retrofit on the Hawker 400XP scheduled for mid-2015.
Mike McGraw, chairman and founder of Data Systems International, has been flying for 25 years and currently owns and operates a KingAir 350, “two-thirds for business and one-third for personal and charity,” he says.
Flying Garmin’s G1000 suite, with Synthetic Vision, “you only miss it when you don’t have it. By that, I mean it becomes as natural to you as looking out the window and seeing terrain on a VFR day. You don’t realize you are using it.” He explains that SV is “particularly comforting” on an instrument approach on a dark night. “We see the bull’s-eye on the end of the runway and see the runway number as you approach it. With no approach lights you can still see it just as clearly as if it were daylight,” he says.
“We do a lot of ILS, and GPS/LPV with lateral guidance down to 250 feet ILS down to 200 feet. It’s just a great tool to have. And now that I’ve had it for these several years, I would certainly not have an airplane without it.
“When I fly corporate, I fly with someone in the right seat. I still do all my personal flying and charitable stuff single pilot. I fly into high-density places like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City all the time as a single pilot. And it’s the best co-pilot you could ever have.” He cites the improved situational awareness of the SV combined with Garmin’s moving map display as providing “that security — plus the warning with the ground proximity warning system — all those features integrated together. It’s a great system,” he says.