Synthetic Vision In The Works

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The FAA might not be ready for it but that's not stopping the Air Force and NASA from trying to develop "synthetic vision" to enable its pilots to fly and fight in any weather. Synthetic vision uses satellite navigation and a computer to present a virtual image of the terrain around the aircraft allowing the pilot to "see" where he is going regardless of weather or darkness. Similar technology is coming to GA. "There's no doubt in my mind that there's tremendous military benefit to this technology," Thomas Schnell, director of the University of Iowa's Operator Performance Laboratory, told Wired News "As long as you could receive a GPS signal, you could fly using synthetic vision -- no matter the weather." ... and assuming the aircraft was still physically capable of flight. Well, it seems like the FAA would like to let the military work the bugs out before certifying such systems in civilian aircraft. As AVweb reported earlier, the agency is allowing the use of "enhanced vision" systems that amplify existing visual cues, but it's specifically banning the use of the computer-generated pictures. Meanwhile, NASA and the Air Force have already tried out synthetic vision systems in a modified C-135 and NASA is sinking $100 million into research. It hopes to test a system at the airport in Reno in June or July.