New Concepts Put Older Cabin Window Technology In The Shade

Mario Ceste, CEO of Boca Raton, Florida-based ATG.

Credit: Brett Schauf/ShowNews

Aircraft window shade specialist Aerospace Technologies Group (ATG) and Vision Systems, an expert in dimmable windows, are at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) exhibiting competing products that aim at controlling natural lighting with two different technologies.

ATG is branching out beyond business aviation to tackle the commercial widebody and single-aisle markets with its newly developed AerBlade concept

“The whole concept around the AerBlade is to bring a business-class kind of experience into a single-aisle aircraft,” says Mario Ceste, CEO of Boca Raton, Florida-based ATG. “That's what we originally started out with, but then people came to us and wanted it for the Airbus A350. We've electrified the movement of the blade and made it touchless. We also incorporated a second blade as an option, which gives you a tinted capability to diffuse the bright sunlight.”

Ceste says the design “has all the benefits of a dimming window where you can dim but still see through it, but it has none of the negatives—you don't get reflective glare, and you also have a complete blackout. The opaque blade for blackout can be cosmetically printed with branding for the airline. The product will fit onto the existing attachment points for a manual shade on the A321 or the A350 with no cutting of a sidewall.” 

The company says the new shade system can be fitted in minutes and powered by a control wire from the seat or the centralized aircraft electrical system. The window can be controlled by the passenger from a switch or from the master flight attendant panel, enabling them to be locked out for overnight flights. 

The design was partially prompted by complaints from Middle East-based operators, which found that the mirror-like reflectivity of the first-generation electro-chromatic dimmable systems was “offensive,” says Ceste. “The other thing is that when the electro-chromatic goes clear [and] you remove aircraft power and park the aircraft, there is nothing to stop the cabin [from] heating up.”

Lyon-based Vision Systems is displaying its Nuance SPD (suspended particle display) dimmable shading system at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) and is flight testing a “smart shell” add-on version of the technology on the cockpit windows of an unidentified business aircraft.

visionsystems window
Credit: Brett Schauf/ShowNews

The company is also showing off its motorized double window shade combined with the SPD feature and mood lighting—all of which can be controlled via a tablet or panel by the company’s ambience management system. Although each of the elements can be controlled separately, the management system has been developed to coordinate the lighting, dimmable windows and shades to suit the user requirements, depending on the phase of flight. 

“The mechanical system can have two fabrics, one of which is sheer to let the light go through, and another one which is a blackout,” says Vision Systems Executive Vice President Catherine Robin. The dimmable system has a laminated film in the window, sandwiched between panels of glass, polycarbonate or composite glass. In the sandwich section the particles making up the Nuance film section are dispersed when the voltage is off, absorbing the light. When power to the film is switched on the particles align, allowing light to pass through.

The system can work on curved or flat surfaces and can be used over large areas—the company has already installed panels up to 9 ft. long. The Nuance also provides heat rejection through both ultraviolet and infrared blockage, and can switch from fully dark to fully clear in less than 1 sec.  

Guy Norris

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