Future pilots may use touchscreens to call up the information they need to see (credit Thales)

Touchscreens to cut future cockpit complexity

Touchscreen haptics, night vision and augmented reality could soon find their way into aircraft flight decks thanks to Thales.

The ‘cockpit of the future’ was among the innovations on display at this year’s Thales Technodays, a three-day event held at Paris’s Palais des Congrès in February bringing together 100 exhibitors from 15 countries.

Every cockpit features two kinds of display - head-up, transparent displays presenting data without the need for the pilot to look away from their usual viewpoints, and the more conventional head-down.

The head-down aspect of this new design features an iPad-style multi-function touchscreen display comprising a number of linked but independent sections and is intended for both civil and military applications.

Product line manager Olivier Leroy said: “In the cockpits currently used we have a lot of displays and a lot of buttons and they’re very complex.

“We have produced a tactile solution which is more intuitive. Now we use 5, 6 or even 8 displays per cockpit but maybe tomorrow we will be using just one display.

“In order to reach this concept in the future, maybe around 2025, we need to secure it against failure.

“Imagine a solution with four screens, so if one fails there are still three screens available.

“Pilots are very worried about having just a single screen as they would be unable to manage their missions if this single screen fails.

“With this system even if one fails there is still functionality available.”

Also, the touch screen delivers a vibration response confirming to the pilot the correct option has been selected.

Leroy explains: “This is very important for the pilot. In a stress situation he has to be sure he has selected the option that he wanted. It was a requirement from the pilots.”

The head-up component of the system consists of a two-colour display, said to be the first of its type in the world, which relays essential navigation information to the pilot in red and green.

The image is protected on to a specially shaped and coated glass display by an LCD imager via an optic relay.

Also on show was the TopOwl helmet-mounted sight and display.

Intended for use by helicopter pilots, the helmet boasts a visor display with both night vision and augmented reality capabilities giving users constant access to terrain data.

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