A company called VirtualHUD (www.virtualhud.com) has come up with a clever idea for creating HUD (Head-up Display) imagery in aircraft. The idea is to project flight information out the front of cockpit window and use the back of the propeller as the "screen." It is simple and clever — and might even work. The limitation is the use of a prop propeller in front of the cockpit, of course, so this limits the application to very small aircraft.
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But this limitation is not such a big one. As we documented recently in our Digital HUD report, there are lots of small private aircraft and very few of these use HUDs because of the cost of the systems. The Virtual HUD Night VU system, which is suitable for nighttime use, is available now for about $7,500, making it affordable for many of these aircraft. At the upcoming OshKosh airshow in late July, the company will introduce the ForwardVU, a brighter model that is suitable for daytime use.
HUD displays are typically complex and expensive pieces of equipment requiring sophisticated optics to combine the projected image with the view out the cockpit window. The market has been around for years, served first by CRT-based projection systems, and now by new digital projection systems. The technologies in this area are now maturing to the point that changes are coming in avionic, and probably automotive HUDs, over the next few years.
The current version of the VirtualHUD is able to project all the standard flight instrumentation required for normal VFR and IFR navigation when equipped with or attached to the aircraft’s GPS system. And, according to the company’s website, you can also look ahead with "Highway in the Sky" and fly through the boxes to your destination - no more following the line. This requires interface with the GPS, digital compass, and air data sensors, as well as multiple accelerometers and gyroscopic force sensors. The VirtualHUD NightVU also has the ability to accept standard RS-170 NTSC Video inputs from external sources like EFIS system and Infrared Cameras (like the Forward.Vision EVS-100).
And you will love the installation. The entire projector attaches to the cockpit windshield via a ball mount and suction cup, plugging directly into the 12-volt accessory power outlet.
Details of the full color projection system were not disclosed, but this does not seem to be a very difficult system to implement. To enhance visibility, users should paint the back of their propellers white. The HUD image does not impact the pilot from seeing through the propeller as usual, but the navigation image is now overlaid onto their field of view.
Inventor William Steele is really aiming to license this technology and have partners do the manufacturing and distribution. To see some YouTube videos, check out the links below.