Portable (Sort Of) Synthetic Vision

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Mercury Computer Systems normally makes imaging equipment for military and medical applications but there are a lot of pilots in the company and, well, you know the rest of the story. The Massachusetts company showed off its Vista Nav synthetic vision system, which, at about $4,000 for the complete system (weather's an option), the company is hoping will be an affordably more capable alternative to high-end GPS systems. The system shows a database-derived real-time depiction of terrain and ground features (including runway markings) on a tablet PC. The clear color display shows a variety of moving map views that include terrain and there's a target point on the screen that shows the aircraft's projected position nine seconds in advance. Charts and approach plates are also included in the database, along with text versions of airport data. The device will also provide vector headings for ATC-commanded course deviations and then pick up the original route after the controller-inspired fun is over. The tablet is the only part you can see. The heart of the system is the navigation unit that is normally installed under the seat and contains the GPS, solid-state gyros and a barometric pressure sensor to provide all the position, attitude and altitude data. Don't worry about a big wiring headache. The navigation unit sends a wireless signal to the tablet.