Airbus advances in development of new cockpit instrumentation

Airbus Synthetic Vision System Photo by Airbus

Airbus teams working on a synthetic vision system (SVS) and a primary full-format flight display (PF3D) came together to create a superior cockpit display that exploits the full potential of modern screen technology.

Since the earliest days of flight, the aviation sector has worked to develop better ways for pilots to understand their aircraft’s position relative to the ground. The evolution has gone from visual cues outside the aircraft to in-cockpit digital displays with data-rich views of the environment. Innovators at Airbus are working to improve this instrumentation to the next level.

A cornerstone of today’s cockpits is the Primary Flight Display (PFD), an electronic instrument that brings together the functions of six previously separate gauges on the panel: the airspeed indicator, attitude indicator, altimeter, turn coordinator, horizontal situation indicator and vertical speed indicator.

Airbus Synthetic Vision SystemThe Primary Flight Display, a high-tech digital screen that combines many of the dials and gauges of yesteryear is getting even better due to Airbus innovation with synthetic vision; Photo by Airbus

“In 2015, we started working on a research and technology project that would break with tradition to exploit the full potential of modern screen technology – giving pilots their data superimposed onto a nearly-real visual representation of where they’re heading.” explained Fabrice Bousquet, an Airbus vision systems expert.

This led to development of a Synthetic Vision System (SVS) that received a positive response from pilots during flight tests. Crucial to the SVS’ success was Airbus’ work on another project – the Primary Full-Format Flight Display (PF3D) – because, without changes, older-generation PFDs would have degraded the visual dimension of information being presented.

“We had to adapt the scales because they weren’t uniform across the display, which would have resulted in natural features like mountains being flattened,” explained Alexis Frenot, the SVS and PF3D project leader. “We also needed the capacity to show pilots their trajectory. While existing PFDs give pilots the information needed to work this out for themselves, our new system actually shows them.”

Teams for the SVS and PF3D systems have now merged and are conducting feasibility studies in advance of the display’s anticipated commercial service entry in 2021.

— Airbus