As you might know, a head-up display is a projection system that allows the pilot to keep his head up (hence the name) looking at the outside world with primary flight instrumentation superimposed upon a pane of glass so there’s no need to look down at the panel-mounted display in order to land the airplane. The benefits of a HUD are many, but most important is that pilots using a HUD fly approaches more accurately and more reliably. The FAA recognizes this and gives credit in certain cases to lower minimums, down to 100 feet decision altitude, for crews using a HUD to fly an approved approach.
For years HUDs have made use of a variety of sensors that see through darkness and certain types of clouds to make flying many approaches in IMC largely visual affairs. In the very recent past, these see-through sensors have been supplemented by a new technology, synthetic vision, which paints a conformal computer-generated image of the outside world. On Rockwell Collins HGS, the synthetic (SVS) and enhanced (EVS) vision pictures are combined along with flight instrument and some navigation data, and it’s all presented through a small glass display through which the pilot continues to look at the real, outside world.
I’ve flown HGS on a few different platforms now, and it changes the way you look at flying a jet. For one thing, with a HUD it is much easier to hand-fly the airplane very precisely, since there’s no need for a scan — all the information you need is right there in front of your eyes. In addition to the tradition-critical flight information, there’s more, including extensive trend information, that makes anticipating diversions, even small ones, easy.
Fusion recognizes the importance of HGS and runs with it, integrating elements of Fusion into the HGS (such as those cool, glowing airport domes that make it easy to see where the flight-planned destination is) while taking HUD symbology and using it on the primary flight display in order to make the transition from head-up time to head-down time as seamless as possible.
Fusion will also allow, as Otto pointed out, new features as they emerge. One such feature, said Peeter Sööt, principle marketing manager for head-up guidance systems for Rockwell Collins, is an enhanced vision sensor the company is developing that might help lower landing minimums down to as little as 300 feet RVR. Fusion frees up development of such products because the calculus behind building them is easier than ever, since it goes without saying that Fusion will be able to efficiently accommodate the new hardware and software related to them.