TopMax is a full-color monocle display and head tracking system that builds on Thales’ legacy of supplying helmet-mounted displays used by military pilots. Mounted within a headband, the display can be worn over either eye depending on the pilot’s preference.

The system presents flight symbology over a 360-deg. field of regard and is capable of displaying symbology off-axis of the forward direction of the flight. Future options include the addition of an enhanced vision system (EVS) that would be integrated with an infrared sensor on the aircraft, a database-driven synthetic vision system (SVS) and a combined vision system that combines SVS over EVS.

Thales contends TopMax is the industry’s only such full-color display, offering piloting advantages over HUD presentations that are typically monochromatic green.

“Having that color aspect helps to prioritize the information, to draw the attention of the pilot to the right information and to reduce workload,” says Yanik Doyon, Thales TopMax director of sales and marketing. “That really makes a huge different for the pilots who have been trying the system. We’re proud of that.”

Under an agreement announced in September, MRO StandardAero will develop supplemental type certifications (STC) to install TopMax in multiple business aircraft types. Thales anticipates the first approved STC from the FAA in the fourth quarter of 2020 for the super-midsize Bombardier Challenger 350.

“From the get-go, the customer gets the 360-degree field of regard and all of the operational credit coming from a HUD,” says Doyon. Operational allowances include special authorization Cat 1 instrument landing system approaches with lower minimums and manual eyes-out Cat 2 landings.

Thales exhibited a demonstrator system to industry to improve the headgear and functionality of the display before starting TopMax development in 2017. The civil product leverages the company’s experience developing the Scorpion monocular and TopOwl binocular helmet-mounted displays for military helicopters and other aircraft.

TopMax – which Thales also is touting for cargo and commercial aircraft – draws more from Scorpion, a helmet-mounted display and cueing system that has been installed on 1,000 aircraft. The main drivers for a monocular display are cost and ease of installation, Doyon says.

“TopOwl uses a tracking system that is expensive and difficult to install,” he says. “We decided to go with the monocle display [for TopMax] because of the experience that we have, the simplicity of the tracking system and because it’s cheaper.”

TopMax aligns with pilot head movement through a built-in inertial sensor and an optical tracker that orients the display by sensing “fiducials,” or marker stickers affixed to the cockpit ceiling. The head gear weighs 1.1 lb. A shipset consisting of the headband, eyepiece and tracker module, marker stickers, dashboard control panel, interface display processor, and magnetic removable visor weighs 7.6 lb.

The system will cost about half that of a traditional HUD and can be installed in about three days, Doyon says. “Our system is agnostic to any avionics suite, so the only thing we need to do is adapt the symbology you see in the TopMax to the symbology you have on your primary flight display,” he explains.