BAE Systems Regional Aircraft - Pioneers of enhanced vision systems for aircraft

BAE Systems has been at the cutting edge of the development of head-up display (HUD) technology for almost 60 years. Defence & Security Systems International talks to Andy Humphries, the firm's director of advanced displays, about how its new LiteHUD and DLE HUD promise to revolutionise the way in which pilots can navigate the battlespace.

How has BAE Systems helped improve head-up displays (HUDs) over the past few decades?

Andy Humphries: BAE Systems has been at the forefront of HUD development, from its inception in the late 1950s to the present day. Our pedigree was established with the development of the world's first HUD in 1958 for the Blackburn Buccaneer. Since then, we have developed HUDs for more than 50 aircraft types and exported them to more than 50 countries around the world.

Over the past six decades, we have continually evolved and updated our HUD products through the introduction of new technologies in order to keep pace with the growing operational demands of pilots and platforms. Some of the key milestones include the introduction of holographic technology to increase the field of view, which granted greater situational awareness; video displays, which maximise the capability of platform sensors to enable 24/7 operations; high-integrity systems that enable the HUD to be used as a primary flight display; and our enhancement of digital electronics and projection technology, which allows increased reliability and operational performance.

How has the LiteHUD built on these incremental improvements and perfected the relationship between the pilot, the avionic systems and their HUD?

LiteHUD introduces digital display technology, revolutionary waveguide optics and high-reliability electronics in an ultra-compact, low-power form factor. This uniquely compact design enables an HUD capability to be integrated into almost any cockpit, from small turboprop trainers through to next-generation fighters. The low-profile design also makes LiteHUD compatible with next-generation cockpits, where a single large area display is often adopted and has typically eliminated the space available for a conventional HUD. Furthermore, as an all-digital system, LiteHUD is compatible with the latest generation of avionic systems, and current and future sensors. Its inbuilt waveguide technology also provides a bright high-quality image with a large head motion box for ease of viewing.

In what ways is BAE Systems' new DLE HUD a breakthrough in HUD technology?

Our digital light engine (DLE) technology uses many of the same core digital modules from the LiteHUD product, configured as a retrofit system that is applicable to most conventional HUDs. The system is a high-luminance and low-latency digital display 'engine' that drives the existing display head, and retains optics and other key modules. Our DLE solution introduces a form, fit and function upgrade with the benefits of increased reliability and performance, without the need to reconfigure the aircraft wiring and systems.

What level of interest has the DLE HUD enjoyed in the marketplace?

Our DLE solution is achieving significant market interest and customer traction, not only from customers with legacy BAE Systems HUDs but also those with third-party HUDs who are keen to enjoy the benefits that the DLE upgrade can provide. BAE Systems was delighted to secure Lockheed Martin as the launch DLE customer for the US Air Force F-22 platform. This a great example of how the F-22 industry team is integrating innovative technologies into the combat Raptor fleet, and directly supports our ongoing efforts to deliver affordable and reliable new capabilities to our air force customer and warfighters.

Are there any emergent technologies that you're excited about incorporating into future HUDs?

We're constantly developing new technologies that can improve our products' performance, reliability and affordability through life. In the short term, the most significant development for our HUDs is likely to be how they are used as part of an integrated system to provide new capabilities. Our digital HUDs will help deliver day/night, all-weather augmented vision to the pilot when paired with new sensors and image processors as part of enhanced and synthetic-vision systems.

We are also taking a holistic approach to future cockpit concepts, combining HUDs with helmet-mounted displays, active inceptor systems and other avionics systems to further enhance pilot performance, reduce workload and improve safety.

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