Boom Tests Vision System For XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator

Boom supersonic FLVS vision system
Credit: Boom supersonic

Supersonic airliner developer Boom is evaluating a forward-looking vision system (FLVS) as part of preparations for flight tests of the XB-1 high-speed demonstrator as well as design planning for the follow-on full-scale Overture passenger aircraft.

Similar to the External Vision System (XVS) developed for NASA’s X-59 Quiet Supersonic Technology low-boom demonstrator, the FLVS will provide a virtual view of the runway to aid pilots in approach and landing. Both the X-59 and XB-1 have long noses which, unlike the drooping nose section of the long-retired supersonic Concorde airliner, are fixed—and present visibility challenges at the high angles of attack required for landing highly swept wing designs.

The system has been flight tested at Mojave Air & Space Port, California, using a specially modified Velocity—a kit-built canard pusher design. The aircraft was selected because it “was able to achieve speeds on approach similar to that of XB-1,” says Boom. “Another benefit of using this aircraft was the pusher prop, which allows the camera system to be easily mounted where it was unobstructed,” adds the developer.

The FLVS incorporates two cameras, a multifunctional display, a data acquisition system, an inertial navigation system and, after a series of flights, was deemed acceptable for use in the XB-1 by Boom test pilots. Testing included more than 50 approaches under a variety of conditions including crosswinds, haze and into the glare of the rising sun. 

The FLVS will be installed by the nose leg of the one-third scale XB-1 demonstrator which is expected to begin flights later in 2021 or early 2022. The 71-ft.-long trijet design is undergoing final ground tests at Boom’s Centennial, Colorado headquarters.

Unlike the FLVS, which is intended for use during takeoff and landing, the XVS on the X-59 is designed to operate in all stages of flight. The NASA unit comprises a 4k-resolution color camera mounted on top of the X-59’s nose just forward of the cockpit and a 24-in.-diagonal ultra-high-definition display mounted on top of the instrumental panel in the cockpit. The Collins Aerospace-developed display was delivered in May to X-59 prime contractor Lockheed Martin.

Close to the ground, the XVS displays infrared imagery from the Forward Vision System—a Collins EVS-3600 enhanced vision system mounted on a trapeze under the fuselage and lowered for takeoff, approach and landing. At altitude the lower portion of the display is filled with computer-generated imagery from a synthetic vision system.

Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.