Pro Line Fusion in a Beech Bonanza?

Rockwell Collins tests high-end avionics in piston single.

How did a highly advanced avionics system built for multimillion-dollar business jets wind up in the cockpit of a stock Beech Bonanza? Sorry, the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion flight deck isn’t a new option coming soon from Beechcraft. Instead, the Bonanza featured in the video below is serving as a flying test bed for a version of Pro Line Fusion that Rockwell Collins is designing for UAVs.

But not just any UAVs, mind you. Rockwell Collins is evaluating the Fusion flight management system as the brains behind unmanned aircraft that would safely and reliably mix with manned aircraft in civil airspace.

The flight trials, conducted recently in Iowa City, Iowa, included Pro Line Fusion hardware installed in the Bonanza and linked through secure datalink to an operator’s station on the ground. The airplane was effectively controlled by the UAV operator sitting in a hangar, although a safety pilot in the left seat of the Bonanza kept an eye on things in case there was any problem.

“What’s really unique about this is we’ve taken Pro Line Fusion and we’ve split it up between air and ground,” said Brian Wolford, Rockwell Collins senior software designer. “We have Pro Line Fusion on the aircraft, and we also have it here on the ground control station.”

The trials seek to prove that UAVs, fitted with the right technology, can safely operate in the National Airspace System while complying with all current FARs. Now, whether anyone will be able to convince Beechcraft to offer Fusion in a new “F36” model of the Bonanza remains to be seen — but we’re not holding our breath.

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