Otto explained that, in terms of fielding new systems on new airplanes in different market segments, Fusion makes life a lot easier by allowing the company to design and certify systems far more quickly than it ever could before. Fusion, Otto said, “gives us the ability to migrate and rehost that software across different hardware platforms and to easily change up the configuration of Fusion. [This] is what gives us the flexibility, making it easy to add or subtract features — you might have three FMSs on long-range aircraft but only two on domestic aircraft and perhaps only one on [an entry-level] class of aircraft. You can easily do all that because it’s all networked, and you don’t have dedicated data buses that you have to run every time that you want to add a new hardware unit on an older airplane. Now all we need is one network switch connection and we’re done.”
Some of the new benefits of Fusion were envisioned before customers were even aware they would want them. One such feature is Fusion’s information architecture, a design that allows Rockwell Collins to get the data that flows throughout the system to every system on the airplane and even into the corporate offices, effectively “making the aircraft a node on an information network, helping the owner of the aircraft manage that asset more effectively,” Otto said, while helping Collins develop new products to aid in that record keeping endeavor.
Fusion will also help Rockwell Collins keep its products up to date. “We know we haven’t envisioned every potential application that pilots are going to need over time,” Otto said, “so we’ve created an architecture and a framework that make it much easier for us to bring those new features and capabilities into the market as they become available or necessary. The architecture is very well positioned to be able to incorporate those more efficiently and effectively than previous architectures were able to do.”
From an aircraft manufacturer’s point of view, Fusion is magic, because it takes out a lot of the hard and expensive work of upgrading avionics capabilities, something that high-flying customers demand on a regular basis, and instead simplifies that process, not only in development but in the certification phase too, because it’s easier to “show that it’s not going to adversely affect other functions on the airplane,” Otto said. With training too, Fusion makes it simple, allowing pilots trained on previous avionics systems to upgrade to a new airplane sometimes with minimal differences training.
Another hallmark of Fusion is that its user interface is designed to seamlessly integrate the use of a head-up display (or two) and to bring the numerous benefits of a HUD onto the primary flight display even if there’s no HUD present.