(Image courtesy: Lockheed Martin)

Collins Aerospace will provide avionics and synthetic vision for the supersonic X-59 QueSST

The supersonic aircraft will use multi-spectral infrared technology as its forward-facing eyes.
Lockheed Martin Corporation has chosen Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Collins Aerospace (formerly Rockwell Collins) to supply the avionics and developmental engineering support for the experimental X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft. The X-59, developed for NASA's Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program, will receive a version of Collins Aerospace’s Pro Line Fusion avionics tailored to its specific requirements, including touchscreen primary flight displays with tailored multi-function windows, head-up display (HUD) symbology, ARC-210 communication radios, and a suite of navigation and surveillance equipment.

The X-59 utilizes a long and slender airframe to achieve supersonic speeds without causing a high decibel sonic boom. The unconventional design precludes the use of a forward-looking window or viewport, so Collins Aerospace is additionally providing a dual multi-spectral enhanced vision system (EVS-3600).

(Image courtesy: Collins Aerospace)

Collins Aerospace originally developed its EVS capabilities to aid pilots landing in adverse weather conditions. The technology enables a “synthetic vision” output from advanced visual sensors leveraging long wave, infrared technology that can display real-time images of airport environments, light emitting diode (LED) runway lighting, and obstacles including vehicles, animals, and aircraft.

SAE International outlines the use of synthetic vision applications aboard aircraft in its Human Engineering Considerations for Airborne Implementation of Enhanced Synthetic Vision Systems ARP5677 standard.

Read more about synthetic vision

“Our industry-leading avionics, combined with one of the most advanced EVS cameras in the market, will add to the safety and efficiency of this forward-leaning aircraft,” says Dave Schreck, vice president and general manager for Military Avionics and Helicopters at Collins Aerospace. “We look forward to working with Lockheed Martin and NASA to play an integral role in making quiet supersonic travel over land possible for passengers.”

Production began on the X-59 late last year and the aircraft is expected to take its first flight in 2021. It is designed to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 miles per hour and create a sound about as loud as a car door closing, or 75 perceived level decibel (PLdB), instead of a sonic boom. The aircraft will be used to collect data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom, helping NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land. 

Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland, was selected for the design, build and flight test of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator in 2018. The company plans to house a System Integration Lab for the Pro Line Fusion avionics at its facility in Palmdale, California and codevelop the software applications side-by-side with Collins Aerospace, a subsidiary of Farmington, Connecticut-based United Technologies Corporation.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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