The COVID-19 Pandemic forced the postponing of the 2020 National Business Aviation Association's annual conference and exhibition that was scheduled to occur in Orlando. Here, Avionics International highlights 10 innovative new avionics technologies that have been introduced to the business and general aviation market over the last year for aircraft ranging from long-range corporate jets to single engine turboprops and pistons.
This list has not been compiled in any type of ranking order, it contains five of the most innovative new aircraft electronics that have been certified or made significant advancements in their development programs.
Airbus Li-Fi IFE
During the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition’s (EBACE) 2021 online forum in June, Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) announced a new partnership with Toulouse-based electronic wiring interconnection system (EWIS) supplier Latécoère Interconnection Systems to develop the aircraft manufacturer’s first Light Fidelity (Li-Fi) in-flight entertainment (IFE) monitor.
The two companies are developing the next generation "ACJ Smart Li-Fi Monitor," with the goal of having it certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) before the end of the year. The monitor will usher in a new generation of cabin IFE technology for the business jet division of Airbus, as it will also feature Bluetooth, casting, mirroring, videoconferencing, and Wi-Fi all embedded inside a single screen without the need for an associated computing box or server.
Light from specialized LED bulbs serves as the data transmission medium for a Li-Fi system in the same way radios, modems and antennas transmit data in Wi-Fi systems, according to Latécoère’s description of the technology.
The Airbus partnership gives Latécoère a new line-fit deal across every Airbus corporate jet type, with the exception of the new ACJ Two Twenty. The newest business jet version of the Airbus A220 will be approved for the new technology at a later date.
“All in all, the only IFEC element that needs to be replaced, in order to enable this upgrade, is the monitor currently installed in the cabin,” Benoit Defforge, president of Airbus Corporate Jets told Avionics. “It is an all-in-one equipment ready-to-use and integrates an intuitive, easy to use and fully customizable interface, a real 4K display and unique smart functionalities like: multiple connectivity devices, powerful processing, and a 2 Tb storage capacity. The Smart Li-Fi Monitor is an easy plug-and-play equipment that fits with all the existing IFEC solutions with no necessary removal.”
Dassault Combined Vision System HUD
Dassault Aviation is including a head-up display (HUD) that combines synthetic vision and enhanced vision system technologies on its new Falcon 6X business jet.
The 6X will feature the same digital flight control system included on other Falcon jets recently introduced by Dassault, anchored by Honeywell’s EASy avionics cockpit suite. Also featured in the cockpit will be two head-up displays featuring the Combined Vision System (CVS), dubbed the "FalconEye" by Dassault.
The company believes pilots can use the overlay of synthetic imagery and information about the external flight environment over the view provided by the EFVS's infrared camera can help pilots to identify runways sooner, access more airports, and see through nearly any type of severe weather situation. It uses the synthetic database-driven terrain mapping and enhanced thermal and low-light camera images at the same time and also allows pilots to adjust the split between synthetic or enhanced vision, or both.
FalconEye made its debut on the Falcon 2000LXS/S and the 900LX in October 2016. A further enhancement for the FalconEye to be featured on the 6X is regulatory approval it will provide for pilots to fly a full approach and land without using natural vision to see the runway.
In July, Dassault announced a third Falcon 6X has joined the program's flight testing campaign on pace for certification this year.
Avidyne Uses Daedalean AI Software in New PilotEye Vision System
A new cockpit vision system featuring artificial intelligence-based software from Daedalean, PilotEye, was introduced by Avidyne at the 2021 Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) 2021 AirVenture convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
PilotEye is the first avionics system Avidyne is bringing to the general aviation aircraft market in partnership with Daedalean, the Switzerland-based company that has been working on developing certifiable artificial intelligence software for safety-critical communications, navigation, and surveillance applications. The two companies first started experimenting with flight testing of their neural network software on a Cessna 180 in 2019, and are now ready to prepare PilotEye for certification.
A neural network can be trained to understand the data that it is continuously fed or input, and can then process and generate intelligent decisions or answers to complex problems that engineers have designed the neural network to solve or output.
Daedalean's neural network functions by taking high-resolution video input extracted in real-time by high-resolution cameras and sends it through a Convolutional Neural Network, which determines whether the images captured by the cameras are part of cooperative or uncooperative traffic. The system can also be used to identify safe landing areas if the pilot encounters an emergency situation.
“Leveraging advanced AI technologies, these solutions will initially include visual-spectrum camera-based systems for visual positioning and traffic detection, hazard avoidance, and landing guidance, as well as providing the data that pilots need for quicker and more-accurate land-anywhere decision-making assistance in the event of emergency," Avidyne CEO and President Dan Schwinn said in a statement.
Avidyne expects to announce pricing and availability for PilotEye "later this year" and will provide more updates about the new technology over the next few months. The two companies have not announced an official timeline yet for regulatory certification and entry into service.
“Certification of safety-critical AI-based systems is a paradigm shift in aviation,” Luuk van Dijk, Daedalean’s founder and CEO said in a statement. “We are excited to be partnered with Avidyne, who will certify, manufacture, and be the first provider in the aviation market of AI-based safety solutions powered by Daedalean AI software.”
Gogo Starts Flight Testing 5G Antennas
Gogo Business Aviation has begun flight testing the antennas for its next-generation 5G network.
On the ground network side, the first two 5G antennas have been installed on a tower, enabling the company to start conducting prototype testing of the 5G antenna towers. Originally scheduled for deployment this year, Gogo CEO Oakleigh Thorne explained during their first-quarter earnings call in March that a supply chain delay caused by a microchip supplier ultimately lead to their delaying the 5G network until 2022.
Another 5G network milestone announced by Gogo is the completion of the development of its 5G air card prototypes and recently completed coast-to-coast flight testing of its 5G belly-mounted antennas. The first flight test involving a connection between the 5G antennas on the aircraft and the 5G antennas on the ground tower was also recently completed. An end-to-end call using a 5G SIM card, from the onboard equipment “to the cell site, through the data center to the internet, and back,” has also been completed, according to Gogo.
"The tests we've conducted and successfully passed validate what we modeled when we initially announced we would build a 5G network," Mike Syverson, senior vice president of engineering for Gogo Business Aviation said in a statement. "Through the testing we've done so far, we now know that Gogo 5G is going to be better than we originally thought it would be."
Gogo expects their nationwide 5G network to become available by the second half of 2022.
Garmin G5000 Upgrade Gives ACARS and FANS-1/A+ to Citation XLS Operators
Business aviation operators and aircraft owners flying the Cessna Citation Excel and XLS models equipped with Garmin’s G5000 integrated flight deck now have access to Future Air Navigation System (FANS-1/A+) and Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) support, according to a March 16 Garmin press release.
Excel and XLS models featuring the upgrade G5000 features will now be equipped to fly the North Atlantic Track System (NATS), which in 2020 had temporary relief from the North Atlantic Datalink Mandate rules—that require FANS-1/A+ avionics to operate between the flight levels FL290 and FL410—removed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The G5000 integrated flight deck for the Citation Excel and Citation XLS features three landscape-oriented displays with touchscreen controllers and geo-referenced Garmin SafeTaxi airport diagrams. A G5000 emergency descent mode is also enabled by the autopilot in the event of a loss in aircraft pressurization, according to Garmin.
Other new capabilities enabled by the G5000 upgrade for the Citation Excel/XLS include synthetic vision, visual and aural cues designed to help pilots with airport taxiing and an optional FANS-over-Iridium capability through the flight deck's embedded GSR 56 satellite connectivity system.