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Rockwell Collins breaks low-cost HUD barrier

Rockwell Collins has become the first avionics provider to go to market with a true low-cost head-up display for the light to midsize business aviation fleet with the launch of its HGS-3500.

The self-contained 5.4kg (12lb) unit, which can fold away in the cockpit above the pilot's head, features a 30e_SDgr horizontal by 21e_SDgr vertical field of view that will show typical HUD symbology as well as gray scale synthetic vision and enhanced vision, if the aircraft is equipped.

Traditional HUD systems include an overhead projector that shines light on an optical combiner in front of the pilot. Companies including BAE Systems, Elbit and Saab Avitronics have been experimenting with low-cost HUDs using various technologies, but have not yet come to market with designs for the lighter end of the business aircraft market.

Using substrate guided optics, the HGS-3500 uses an optical waveguide to transfer the HUD imagery from an image source in the overhead unit directly to a flat plate of glass in front of the pilot.

Although costing more than the generally accepted figure for of a low-cost HUD - about $50,000 not installed - the HGS-3500 comes close. Adam Evanschwartz, Rockwell Collins' principal marketing manager for product systems, says the self-contained unit is priced at "well under $100,000" uninstalled and about $150,000 fully installed.

The only "catch" in this case is that the self-contained HUD must connect to a Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics flightdeck that is part of a clean-sheet or block upgrade design - "mostly because of the intricacies of installing", says Evanschwartz. "The overhead optical component must be installed very precisely. It's practical only for a block point change or a clean-sheet design."

A variety of surveys led the company to conclude the internally funded project was ready to go forward. "We looked at marketplace and saw the need for help with precise flightpath control and energy management in this segment," says Evanschwartz. "It was very much a 'build a market' project. Once we had it mature enough, we started to engage with manufacturers."

He says airframers have shown "great enthusiasm" for the system and that a first customer announcement should arrive "in the not too distant future".

Although Pro Line Fusion is available in super-light and larger business jets, Evanschwartz says the suite is scalable and will eventually allow aircraft down to the size of certain single-engined turboprops to be candidates for the HGS-3500.

For more on business and general aviation go to flightglobal.com/bizav

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