Of all the impediments to the wide-spread adoption of small aircraft for on-demand travel, foremost is their inability to fly in
low-visibility conditions. Synthetic vision systems that match the aircraft's GPS position, speed and attitude to a terrain database can overcome this problem. SVS presents the pilot with a moving, ego-centric 3D view of the world even when flying in total fog. The improved flight safety made possible by SVS is well recognized.
A NASA proof of concept study has shown that low-time, non-IFR rated pilots can readily fly challenging maneuvers in a twin engine general aviation aircraft using SVS alone. In addition, NASA has shown that SVS and GPS satellite technology can provide for a coordinated ATC system of much greater capacity and efficiency. Providing a VFR pilot with the ability to visualize the path to safely fly in and out of instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) promises to save lives.
Currently, the training and workload burden imposed by single-pilot IFR flying in serious instrument meteorological conditions with standard "steam gauges" is so daunting as to effectively eliminate this as an option for any except professional pilots. For ordinary pilots to be able to routinely fly to destinations in the same bad weather that they can calmly brave in their car, the aircraft must have an accurate, reliable and intuitive SVS. The fundamental nature of this requirement for PAVs to succeed cannot be overemphasized.
The current general aviation SVS products are prohibitively expensive and are not capable of certification for landing below minimums. An affordable system is badly needed, and the increased market demand for SVS that will result from the PAV Centennial Challenge will help achieve the volumes necessary for affordability. For the PAV Centennial Challenge, the CAFE Foundation team will use its collective talent, technology and knowledge to build a flight testing tool that is a simplified SVS known as the Runway In The Sky (RITS). The RITS will help lead to affordable SVS for PAVs. At the CAFE Foundation, we firmly believe that such a SVS is achievable and vital to the future of GA in the new century of flight.
Synthetic Vision will be one of several advanced avionics capabilities that help integrate PAVs into a Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS). Other features that are essential will include: