A Pocket-size Augmented Reality System for Flight Control

augmented reality aircraft low visibility

Many of us are not aware of the level visualization technologies have reached in aircrafts today. It is commonly believed that advanced visualization technologies are available exclusively in the helmets of military pilots. That is not the case anymore.

Indeed, things have changed thanks to the fact that Head-up displays (HUDs) have become common equipment also in civil aircraft cockpits. One of the uses of HUDs is to provide a specific visual interface for pilots to help them perform their tasks more efficiently. Some of these interfaces take the form of what is called a “tunnel-in-the-sky“, a 3D geometry representing the navigation path that is displayed on a flat screen.

Despite its advantages, “Tunnel in the sky” systems are not as widespread as one may think, although they are available in some aircrafts as modern HUDs. The reasons why standard TS systems are not so widespread appear to reside on the following circumstances:

a) existing TS solutions are not as compact and cost-effective as they should be in order to be easily adopted for the general aviation;

b) according to recent studies the standard “tunnel-in-the-sky” system do not provide any crucial advantage in comparison with more traditional methods of presenting navigation information to pilots.

In order to overcome such difficulties, Inglobe Technologies, in collaboration with MSTUCA -Moscow State Technical University for Civil Aviation-, developed and evaluated experimentally a totally new “pocket-size” AR system that has capabilities that help pilots during operations. The results of this experimental study have been discussed in a paper titled “A Pocket-size Augmented Reality System for Flight Control“. The paper that has been presented at EuroVR 2014, 11th Conference and Exhibition of the European Association of Virtual and Augmented Reality 2014, held in Bremen (Germany) on December 10th has been awarded the “Best Paper Award” in the Conference.

The new AR system consists of low-cost items and does not suffer from the drawbacks tied with existing enhanced vision systems for pilots. The experiments made so far prove the effectiveness of the new AR solution. A series of flight tests have been also performed on small airplanes, one of which running on a Cessna 172 aircraft can be seen in the video below.

The benefits of the Flight Control System

The system has a number of advantages with respect to existing solutions:

1) it is low cost -dozens of times than traditional systems- and wearable –does not require any special installation-

2) it is accurate -because of the stereo mode- and natural -because of the extremely simple interface-

3) it helps solve the problem of flight safety.

When can the system be best employed? First, the system can be employed as an aid for commercial aircrafts during emergency situations when the standard systems fail (e.g. the crash of Air France A-330 in the Atlantic in 2009) or while landing in low visibility conditions (e.g. the crash of Polish president Tu-154 in 2010).

In the future the system may become the main way of presenting navigation information to pilots of general flying vehicles. The system itself could also be employed to make naval and terrain operations even safer.

Now, can you imagine what in the future the sky motorways will look like? We do have a bunch of ideas.

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