With the growth in air traffic and the increasing development of new technologies, the cockpit environment must keep pace and be constantly improved to offer new functionalities to pilots. To this end, simulators are developed to enable the display and pre-validation of new cockpit functionalities during flight tests. However, most of these simulators are overloaded, due to the numerous maintenance assessments and revisions required.
A cockpit platform for cost and time saving
With the aim of reducing costs and saving time, ALTEN began developing its own FAST (Function Assessment with Simulation Tool) prototyping platform in 2016. The development of this prototype is thus aimed at validating new cockpit functionalities for pilots, thanks to dynamic HMI assessments in a staged cockpit environment or simply on an ALTEN PC, without a real system or flight control module.
Once modelled, these functionalities are pre-validated by the pilots, who learn how to contextualise them. Before being able to test them on a simulator with real systems, they already have a better understanding of them and a more precise vision of the aircraft’s behaviour.
How did ALTEN engineers model this approach?
They staged the cockpit environment on a PowerPoint© interface to create a dynamic on the human-machine interfaces, thanks to the animation of a library of objects, reconstituted based on the real cockpit environment. Thus, the objects to be tested are chosen according to the need and the new associated functionalities are proposed to the pilots.
A flexible tool for greater productivity
The benefits of this development are considerable in many ways. First of all in terms of ease of use. The model of the platform that has been developed can be transported in a suitcase and assembled in 10 minutes. It consists of a control panel with two screens and a touch screen support. The test/calculation part is provided by a laptop and a docking station, connected to the three screens. These features therefore make it possible to quickly and effectively carry out pre-validation of cockpit functionalities, directly with the pilots and on customer sites.
But the ease of use of the platform does not stop at its hardware aspect, it also covers the entire associated software aspect. For it to be operational, it is necessary to fill in a file with the information relating to the definition of the flight plan.
A dedicated interface then allows you to build all the desired animations (different flight phases, etc.), on PowerPoint© in one click! The different files created then communicate with each other. Once these animations have been generated, a simple click on “START” is required to launch the scenario on the model’s screens. The advantage of this type of media is that it can be stored on servers and reused for other purposes, such as design meetings or safety reviews on a conventional laptop or tablet.
FAST also represents a significant added value for the customer in terms of cost and time with regard to the choice of cockpit functionalities to be adopted prior to simulator tests. The platform enables rapid assessment of HMIs, reducing the recurring costs of conventional testing methods by almost a third and cutting the time required by several weeks. Even when aircraft configurations change, FAST has the solution: the model can integrate different cockpit environments, which are completely independent. One of the Group’s flagship customers from the aeronautics industry has already shown interest in this!
In addition, its development prospects are extremely broad, since the technology used can be transposed to other sectors: automotive, helicopter, etc. It can also be the subject of training, particularly for aeronautical engineering students, to enable them to work on a physical cockpit and thus make the link between their theoretical knowledge and pilot practices.
FAST is, therefore, the ideal test medium for any rapid HMI assessment, meeting both responsiveness and productivity challenges: modularity, flexibility, ability to create an open environment, etc. So many features that facilitate the pre-validation of cockpit functionalities at a lower cost.