Helmet mounted displays (HMDs), once the preserve of fighter pilots, are now migrating to ground-based applications as aerospace technicians grapple with larger quantities of data and ever decreasing turn-round times.

To help this vital operation, Rockwell Collins (H3/A20) is demonstrating Trekker, the new PC-based information system with personal HMD.

Trekker consists of a specially-packaged PC, worn around the waist on a belt which also holds a battery pack. Connected to the PC is a lightweight monocular HMD with a 640x480 resolution monochrome LCD screen.

The headset also has integral microphone and earpiece which provide the main interface with the computer.

The whole package is designed to allow a technician to access technical manuals and data while working on an aircraft. The system responds to a series of voice commands from the operator or via a trackerball pointing device incorporated onto the PC case.

The microphone has been designed to reduce the problem of noise found in maintenance environments by incorporating two microphones into the headset. The first is a unidirectional microphone pointing toward the operator. This is back-to-back with a second microphone which faces away from the user and is used to provide noise cancellation via software in the computer. The voice recognition software is the Listen package written by Verbex.

Nick Marsden, Rockwell's British product manager for the system in the UK, says: "The system is designed in the US. When I got it, it couldn't understand me at all. I didn't speak with an American drawl. So I had to programme it to recognise my voice. It took me about one and a half hours."

Using a standard PC card with the necessary leads, the computer can be connected directly to an aircraft to download information onto the operator's screen. The same PC card slot can hold a modem or wireless LAN which can relay information to and from remote locations, allowing, for example, parts to be delivered.

Trekker is already on trial with the UK Ministry of Defence Air Technical Publications group responsible for setting standards for electronic manuals.

Boeing, American Airlines and the US Department of Defense are also trialling the system.

The current system weighs a total of about 3kg including the battery and uses an Intel 486 processor. Marsden says a new version will be out soon for production volumes with a faster processor and weighing only 2kg.





Source: Flight Daily News