A COVID-19 Technology Break

Despite the pandemic, work continues on super cool airplane technology advancements around the world.

Since the second week of March, updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus has dominated all Avionics coverage on almost a daily basis, and rightly so, as the impact this virus has had on all areas of the industry will be felt forever.

Sure, the timeline is hazy, but the fog over aviation will eventually give way to clear skies — and work continues on super cool airplane technology advancements around the world, in spite of the virus and associated lockdowns.

Let’s start, for instance, with one of my favorite airplanes of all time, the U2S Dragon Lady, the U.S. military’s classic spy plane designed to fly at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet. Days before writing this, under a new contract announced in early April, Lockheed Martin will be updating all U2s that remain in service with a new avionics suite, cockpit displays and a new mission computer developed with machine to machine processing in mind.

In February, EASA published its first 33-page Artificial Intelligence roadmap and confirmed it anticipates the first certification for the use of artificial intelligence in aircraft systems coming in 2025. Ironically, that happened just a few months after I visited Paris and Toulouse, where I learned about a next generation connected flight management computer in development at Thales, which is also working on a cockpit display virtual pilot assistant capable of interpreting voice control commands and automatically presenting corresponding information such as suggesting more optimal flight plan trajectory changes.

Speaking of artificial intelligence, during the same month EASA published its AI roadmap, I was sending questions to the lead artificial intelligence engineer at Searidge Technologies, the Ontario, Canada-based supplier of Aimee, the baseline machine learning computing framework enabling a network of cameras at London Heathrow Airport to evaluate how the use of aircraft image recognition could help reduce delays caused by fog and other conditions that often place the airport’s tower in cloud conditions.

And that’s just a small slice of all the innovative projects and technologies that continue to be developed and advance around the world of aviation. In this month’s issue of Avionics we have coverage of a number of other exciting and innovative technologies, including a deep dive into commercially operated unmanned aircraft avionics, an updated look at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Global Aeronautical Distress Safety System (GADSS) concept of operations and more.

As always, please email me any and all feedback and topics you’d like to see covered.

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