10 December, 2013

What we've been working on at CAU: an automated pilot's advisor based on cockpit data fusion

As always, two truths remain immutable: there is nothing new under the sun, and great minds think alike. And to these, perhaps we can add a third: better late than never.

A client tasked us with defining detailed functional requirements for an "add-on" pilot's aircraft performance monitoring and advisory system for application in transport category airplanes (i.e., "big iron"airliner types). We named the system PASS -- Performance Advisory Safety System.

The initial instance of PASS is laptop-based with access to aircraft system parameters via a standard data bus interface. The first requirement for PASS is to pose no risk to aircraft systems, so its interaction on the bus is entirely passive monitoring and data collection. All transactions are one-way. A subsequent iteration of PASS functionality can be integration into an existing flight management system (FMS). 

What PASS does is automate performance monitoring tasks such as:
  • Calculate V1 speed
  • Determine CG location and verify within limits
  • Monitor expected/acceptable acceleration during takeoff
  • Verify airspeed indicator "aliveness" and consistency during takeoff roll
  • Perform in-flight "reasonableness and consistency checks" across data such as throttle settings, fuel flow, EGT, airspeed, and attitude
  • Verify aircraft configuration is appropriate for flight phase.
An important PASS function is to assist flight crews in resolving dilemmas posed by failed instruments, displays, or the data sources driving them. For example, PASS can diagnose and warn of a failed pitot-static system by comparing all airspeed and static sources with aircraft configuration, flight path angle, and engine outputs, 

In response to system faults and failures that it detects, PASS integrates the appropriate checklist, POH information, and system malfunction procedures, thereby optimizing cockpit resource management and reducing crew workload.

We've completed the initial set of requirements and are ready to move into the next phase -- a working prototype to allow demonstration of the concept as well as collection of flight crew comments and other inputs. 

We are encouraged that others are thinking along similar lines: