Collins' Wide-Area Display Makes Dubai Air Show Debut

Head-up displays began as futuristic extras for fighter cockpits, but today the technology is available on high-end cars. Collins Aerospace believes it may have found a technology with similar potential – the wide-area touchscreen display.

"When I was young and flying in the military there weren't even that many aircraft with HUDs out there," says Chris Williams, a former commander of the U.S. Air Force's 8th Fighter Squadron, who is manager of customer accounts for Collins' Cedar Rapids, Iowa, facility. "As they proliferated around the fighter market, people couldn't fly without them. They went across all sorts of platforms, and made their way to the commercial side. So it's very easy to see how having a lot of information at your fingertips with a touchscreen large-area display could move into other areas – even beyond aircraft."

Collins is exhibiting its 20-in.-by-8-in. (50.8-cm-by-20.3-cm) LCD touchscreen for the first time at the Dubai Airshow this week, as the company begins to build on early interest from various potential customers. The technology has applicability both to new platforms and the retrofit market, and as fighters equipped with similar screens – most notably the F-35, but there are programs underway to integrate wide-area displays into the Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon – arrive in service, there will, the company believes, be an increasing demand for the functionality on other aircraft, whether for training or operational purposes.

"We've seen a lot of interest across all platforms," Williams says. "Typically one associates this with fighter aircraft, but the ability to combine a lot of information into a smaller packed space has a lot of appeal. A large-area display like this allows you to put a lot of information in front of the pilot, and gives them the fingertip ability to draw things up and move things around."