Rockwell Collins demonstrated the capability of their Pro Line Fusion flight deck to be utilised as a ground control station last month as a part of a flight demonstration with the University of Iowa College of Engineering Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL).
Alex Postnikov, principle engineering manager at the Rockwell Collins Advanced Technology Center said that the aim of the flight was to ‘test the operational capability of a distributed Flight Management System using a certified digital communications link.’
The flight was conducted with a surrogate unmanned aircraft with a safety pilot onboard in order to test some of the repurposed Rockwell Collins technology for manned aircraft, with a view to applying that to unmanned aircraft.
“One of the big parts of the certification with the FAA is being able to handle lost link procedures. Today in the military world, when you lose a link, the [unmanned] aircraft essentially starts spiralling up with the hope of getting a line of sight to the radio. When it is unable to do that for some time it just flies in a straight line to the point of origin or where it is launched from,” said Postnikov. “Imagine doing something like this in the NAS. You cannot do that. The aircraft cannot just spiral up and just fly it in a straight line somewhere. So you have to follow the Standard RNP procedures, you have to use the standard navaids that are understood by everybody who flies in the NAS. That’s the piece that we believe has very strongly positioned us because the Pro Line Fusion has that capability. While this test focused on demonstrating the datalink capability, the emphasis of the September flight test was to “ensure that we can exercise our distributed Flight Management System (FMS).”
The only part of the flight test that was not automated was the take-off and landing procedures. The test team artificially broke the data link between the aircraft during the test and the modified Pro Line Fusion ground station, which was connected to the radio that was in communication with the aircraft.
Cost is a major issue with HFDL communications and Rockwell Collins are, through their acquisition of ARINC last year, offering cost effective solutions for aircraft messaging across the world, whether in manned or unmanned aircraft.