FLIR System Targets GA

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A system that's helped fighter and attack aircraft pilots see better for decades could soon be coming to a GA panel you recognize. Forward.Vision, a division of Aercomp Inc., has developed a relatively low-cost (under $20,000) forward looking infrared system (FLIR) for general aviation. It's been selling them to homebuilt owners for the last couple of months but company spokesman Pat Farrell says several major manufacturers are interested in a certified version. "They are some of the biggest OEMs you would recognize," Farrell told AVweb after a successful showing at AOPA Expo last week. We might hope that one would endeavor to take on the certification hurdles. The Forward Vision system uses an infrared camera to peer through smoke, haze and precipitation, with varying degrees of clarity. The company is quick to point out that your mileage may vary ... really ... depending on the density of the precip and other factors. But because every object has its own unique heat signature, the display clearly depicts buildings, parked aircraft, trees or terrain that might be in the way. Even runway markings are visible because the white paint is reflective and the markings are a different temperature than the pavement around them. Farrell said the setup, which he calls a vision augmentation system, has limitations (which he appears to genuinely seek to make known) but it can definitely enhance situational awareness and flight safety. It also differs from synthetic vision in that the image is in real time and doesn't rely on a computer database of terrain information. "Those systems can't see an airplane sitting on the runway because it isn't in their database," he said. Farrell said he's hoping to work with a manufacturer to certify the system without significantly increasing the price.