March 25, 2013
The dawn of equivalent visual operations is leading to a new generation of onboard situational awareness and safety tools for the ground portion of a flight.
Thought leaders in the new technologies include Honeywell and Rockwell Collins, whose primary flight display and head-up display surface guidance prototypes, respectively, could come to market as certified products or upgrades in 3-5 years.
Equivalent visual operations (EVO), an element of the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System, refers to using onboard synthetic and enhanced vision technologies to allow pilots to make visual precision landings when visibility and cloud bases approach 0 mi. and 0 ft., respectively.
Both Honeywell and Rockwell Collins are researching EVO systems as the industry continues to develop standards for the systems, with Honeywell favoring key information on the primary flight display (PFD) and Rockwell Collins opting for similar cues on the head-up display (HUD).
Either solution, however, will require a companion surface guidance system on the flight deck to make EVO economically practical at a large number of airports, where low-visibility taxiing would otherwise require the facility to have costly extra infrastructure and training as part of a surface-movement guidance and control system.
Along with enabling EVO, the workload-reducing surface guidance systems should be a boon to runway safety, which has been on the NTSB's list of most-wanted safety improvements since 1990. Of particular concern to the NTSB are runway incursions, excursions and selection errors.
Though an increasing number of aircraft have access to own-ship moving-map displays that show location on a 2-D map either on the multifunction display or electronic flight bag, the concept of pilots having to look away and down from the direction of flight to see and interpret the data, particularly at airports with complex and confusing layouts, leaves much room for improvement.