NASA’s Next-Gen Augmented Reality Cockpit Displays

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working on a pair of glasses intended for commercial airline pilots landing at severely fogged-up airports.

The augmented reality-themed glasses feature an HUD (Heads-Up Display) that projects an overlay of the airport's runway and general layout, to aid pilots maintain safe control of commercial aircraft when airport conditions are at their worst.

While the idea of embedding augmented reality (AR) directly into pilots' glasses is new, the marriage of AR and aviation is already well-established.

Augmented Reality Cockpit Displays
This next-generation augmented reality pilot display technology is under development at NASA's Virginia-based Langley Research Center and the administration's presently seeking to collaborate with an external partner to bring the concept to commercial life.

Heads-Up Displays were initially confined to just two commercial aircraft designs - the Boeing 737 NG (New Generation) series and the Brazilian Embraer 190. Now, however, there's a wealth of types equipped with them including the Airbus A318 and the brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on which they're standard.

These HUDs form part of the cockpit layout and involve flight data placed on top of the view to the outside world.

Next-Gen Cockpit Displays
NASA's next-gen cockpit display glasses go one stage further by putting the overlaid data right in front of a pilot and making it more interactive: when the pilot moves his head, the data moves around accordingly. So, with the glasses on, a pilot can be presented with key landing information - direction, altitude and speed, for example - while remaining focused on the approaching runway.

Since the aircraft landing glasses are almost entirely autonomous, they could be used regardless of the systems already integrated into an airliner's cockpit, so there'd be no need to retrofit much in the way of new components into existing cockpit layouts.

NASA's work in this area forms one part of its much wider Synthetic Vision programme, which aims to give commercial aircraft pilots new flight tools and, ultimately, to relocate many of the cockpit's flight data dials directly into the pilot's field of view.

Airport International will present further coverage of the NASA Synthetic Vision programme in future News Items.