NASA and Gulfstream got together recently to fly a Gulfstream GV primarily by reference to NASA's Synthetic Vision System (SVS). Gulfstream's test pilot Chip King served as pilot in command and kept watch while NASA-designated test pilot Mike Norman flew the airplane with his side of the cockpit veiled to block the view of the outside world. While a virtual display of the outside world is central to SVS, the system also employs a variety of other sensors designed to detect obstructions not accounted for by the database.
Over the course of a couple of hours, the team flew the GV on a series of approaches at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, relying on a virtual terrain display on an LCD and the airplane's head-up display. While the pilots were busy doing the flying, a team of seven researchers and engineers monitored the flight from workstations in the cabin, keeping track of the pilots' performance and the accuracy of the sensors and databases. NASA plans to fly more tests with Gulfstream in the GV, culminating in a series of more challenging flights in and around Reno, Nevada, with approaches to airports surrounded by high terrain and tall buildings.
Will synthetic vision ever be used on business aircraft like the GV? Suffice it to say that the SVS testing closely matches that conducted by NASA and Gulfstream several years ago that resulted in Gulfstream certifying its Enhanced Vision System (EVS), which is now standard or optional equipment on several of its business jet models.