Expect Avionics Upgrades, New Technology in 2018

Larger aircraft technology coming to smaller models.

With the Federal Aviation Administration’s change to allow lower-cost modern electronics to be more easily used in cockpits, BJT sister publication Aviation International News expects further developments from this trend, and many new upgrade opportunities for older aircraft.

Head-up displays (HUDs), long exclusive to larger aircraft because of their weight and complexity, will find new markets in smaller aircraft. Products such as Rockwell Collins’s HGS-3500 compact HUD and the new Garmin GHD 2100 allow midsize jets to carry this valuable safety equipment. And small airplanes may soon be able to add a HUD, as MyGoFlight completes development of its low-cost SkyDisplay HUD.

Along with HUD developments are new types of sensors that will enable viewing through moist fog—something that current infrared sensors can’t accomplish. Kerr Avionics, for example, is developing a system that pairs a video camera on the aircraft to an encoded LED beacon on the ground. Others are working on various advanced sensors that will eliminate the fog problem, possibly leading to true zero-zero landing capability without the complexity of currently available auto land systems.

Of course, no look at the future of avionics would be complete without mentioning the recent strides made in airborne connectivity. High-speed Ka-band broadband on new Inmarsat and ViaSat satellites is changing the way travelers stay connected to the Internet. On the horizon are air-to-ground technologies that will offer lower-cost access to high-speed internet in regions where companies such as Gogo and SmartSky are adding to and building networks. Iridium’s Next satellite constellation should go live this year, offering high-speed worldwide satcom services with less latency (delay) and coverage that includes polar regions. All of these technologies will enable new products that will serve passengers, pilots, and even not-so-futuristic pilotless airborne platforms.