The thundery weather conditions appeared nearly ideal for an evaluation of Dassault’s new FalconEye combined vision system at dusk on the day we flew Dassault’s Falcon 8X flight test aircraft.​

FalconEye was developed in concert with Elbit Systems. It includes the largest-field-of-view, brightest and highest-resolution HUD yet offered in a Falcon Jet. While it doesn’t quite match best-in-class head-up guidance systems from Rockwell Collins,, FalconEye introduces new features not yet available on competitive products.

Most notably, its combined vision system (CVS) offers both synthetic vision system (SVS) and enhanced vision system (EVS) imagery, clearly divided into upper and lower windows. While flying, pilots can adjust the split between SVS on the top and EVS on the bottom to obtain the most useful imagery as weather and visibility conditions change. SVS and EVS image brightness are individually adjustable, as are EVS contrast and overall HUD brightness, plus there’s a CVS on/off button to clear the HUD of anything that might distract from the view out the windshield.

FalconEye has six sensors. Four of them are dedicated to detecting a wide spectrum of lights in daylight conditions, with the fifth used to detect lights at night. A sixth sensor is a long-wave IR unit that can detect thermal background energy with high resolution.

Let’s Go Flying

The value of FalconEye’s CVS became apparent shortly after we rolled out of the chocks in Istres, France, during a driving rain squall. The four daylight vision sensors and the long-wave IR sensor thermal background detection created a crisp, high-resolution EVS image.

Then it was time to see how FalconEye works in hard IFR. The upper center display of the Falcon 8X’s EASy III was awash in a sea of yellow and red radar returns, peppered liberally with areas of magenta.

Heavy rain and dense clouds completely obscured our vision through the windshield. They also blinded FalconEye’s EVS. But they had no adverse effect on the system’s SVS. As EVS was useless in such weather conditions, we dialed down the split between the SVS and EVS windows until it was several degrees below the horizon. This allowed us to use the full capability of the SVS to visualize the terrain below us and alongside the final approach course as we maneuvered the aircraft for landing.

Turning final, FalconEye’s SVS displayed a dashed centerline that helped us align with the 175-deg. inbound final approach course. A signpost, over the dashed centerline and displaying the airport identifier, appeared above the horizon line on the HUD to assure us we were proceeding to the intended airport.

The visibility started to improve during the final approach descent, so we dialed up the split between the SVS and EVS windows just above the horizon line, thereby allocating more area on the HUD for the night-vision and thermal-vision sensors to display approach and runway lights, plus thermal background radiation.

Once we landed, the EVS night-vision and thermal-vision sensors provided images of the airport lights, pavement and other features that helped us taxi safely. The thermal-vision sensor also clearly detected personnel in the vicinity, providing additional safety margins.

Conclusions?

FalconEye is head-and-shoulders above the HUD/EVS equipment with which we’ve flown in previous Falcon Jets. The combiner’s larger field of view, much higher display resolution and greater brightness all serve to make it more usable, especially in crosswind conditions because the flight path vector clearly remains in view.

Its combined vision system not only offers both synthetic vision and enhanced vision, it’s the first such system to give pilots the authority to change the split between two background imagery areas.

EVS certainly proved its worth during all ground operations, especially at night. It also has strong potential for helping flight crews “see” the runway through mist, haze, smoke or smog. That’s a subject for a follow-on flight evaluation when the RVR drops to as low as 1,200 ft.

FalconEye soon will be certified as an enhanced flight vision system in accordance with FAR Part 91.176, permitting operators to take up to 250 m of credit for flying low-visibility approaches.

Its SVS features are just as impressive. Many competitive systems display terrain contours in equal detail. But FalconEye’s SVS has a worldwide airport database that provides centerline alignment, approach lighting crossbar cues and touchdown markers for all paved runways 2,500 ft. long and greater. The SVS functions provide enhanced situational awareness on virtually every flight, not just when ceilings and visibility are low.

Considering its capabilities, FalconEye sets a new standard in combined vision systems for head-up displays. We’ve not yet flown with a system that’s more advanced.