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Rockwell Collins unveils first touch-control primary flight display


July 31, 2011

Rockwell Collins touch-control primary flight display (PFD)

Rockwell Collins touch-control primary flight display (PFD)

For the first 50 years of computing, the input and output of a computer have been to different places. Mobile computing and the touch screen are quickly changing things though and the changes extend to the aircraft industry. At the 59th Annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Rockwell Collins has unveiled the first touch-control primary flight displays (PFD) for business jets and turboprop aircraft, which will be available on future applications of the company's Pro Line Fusion avionics system.

The icon-based, touch-controlled interface is designed to make the cockpit more user friendly and keep the pilot's eyes focused up and forward instead of down at the center console. A tap of the display brings up a context-sensitive menu that lets pilots change things such as the speed, altitude and heading of the aircraft with just a couple of taps. Through the icon-based graphical user interface, the pilot can also manage aircraft systems, complete checklists, and review the flightplan on a scrollable map, all without taking their eyes off the PFD.

Through gesture controls, pilots can also redirect the aircraft to a graphically displayed waypoint or destination with a swipe of a finger instead of entering information on a console-mounted keypad. Other gestures control panning and zoom features, while a physical keyboard is retained for alphanumeric input rather than an onscreen virtual keyboard that was decided would cover up too much important information.

With a couple of taps, the screen layout can also be split into two, three or four windows and the elements of the individual windows customized by dragging and dropping icons to provide a wealth of relevant flight information at a glance. Rockwell Collins says the user-friendly, icon-based graphical user interface also cuts the learning curve for pilots transitioning to a new aircraft type.

"These displays demonstrate our focus on empowering pilots with natural head-up, eyes-forward interfaces," said Colin Mahoney, vice president of Sales and Marketing for Rockwell Collins. "Touch-controlled, icon-based controls on the main displays help keep pilots' attention focused up and forward for safer and more efficient flying."

Rockwell Collins expects to receive certification for the touchscreen interface in 2013, after which it is slated to appear in cockpits featuring its Pro Line Fusion avionics suite.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

\"safer and more efficient flying\" ? You must be joking!! Get a friend to take you out in a car and while he (or she) throws it into a few curves, try to operate an app on your iPhone or iPad. See how many errors you make, how many times you open unwanted submenus or end up in a different app altogether. Touch screens are unusable in any situation other than a level, flat calm situation. They are well nigh inoperable in a crisis. When your flight hits turbulence just pray this guys at the front have nice positive, chunky, switches to fly with not (whoops!) touch screens.

Doug MacLeod

Surely if they mount the display rigid to seat similar to that used in lifeboats (floating) then the air stewardess will be able to accurately touch buttons when seated securely, either that or make the screen/buttons very large!

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