Ok, folks. I know several of you have been waiting anxiously for me to post an update to my development of the experimental “glass cockpit” that I’ve been working on for years.
So, here’s the beef. First, the bad news… on Thanksgiving day in 2006, I stopped all development of the “glass cockpit” that I was working on. However… and now the good news… I had an amazing idea that totally blew away all my expectations and instantly made glass cockpits old time junk.
I came up with an idea for a head up display that projects the flight information in front of the pilot… not on the windscreen or a piece of glass in front of the pilot, but on the “virtual surface” created by the spinning propeller. Since then, I have been spending all my free time to develop this idea. It’s called the VirtualHUD and it’s now complete.
The picture you see here is of the first working prototype. I have a lot of other ideas that I am working on, but at this point, I am not ready to show them… however, you can learn more about it by checking out my personal website at http://www.virtualhud.com. One thing I just noticed as I was typing this message is how much it looks like HAL on 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was purely unintentional. (RIP: Arthur C. Clarke.)
Now, to answer questions:
1.) How does it work? Well, that is part of my patent and at this point, I am not quite ready to discuss that… but, if you happen to see me, ask me about it and I’ll show you it working.
2.) What about Microsoft? Microsoft is my employer and I plan on working here for ever. I do not plan on going into production with this design, but fully intend to license it to other companies who will. Microsoft is by far the best company that I have ever worked for and they have been very supportive about this side work that I have been doing. I have several patents filed on this design and they have been very gracious in allowing me to persue them on my own.
3.) Does Microsoft own the patents? No, because this technology is not core to what Microsoft does, they have released me from assigning them over to them… however, they are allowed to license this technology from me at no cost. I’m not sure if they ever will, but it’s available to them.
4.) Has it flown? Yes… and it does quite nicely.
5.) What does it display? My current prototype displays Airspeed, Altitude, Horizon Line, Pitch information, Heading and Highway in the Sky. But, I can display anything that I want to.
6.) Do you have any companies that have licensed it yet? No, however, I am in talks with several at this time.
7.) Can I see more? Yes… I will be down at the Sun-N-Fun airshow on April 8-13th in the Toxo Aircraft booth. I will also be at EAA’s AirVenture (better known as Oshkosh) Airshow at the end of July. Also, if you happen to run into me, I’ll gladly show you.
8.) What about your “glass cockpit” stuff? Well, most of the work I did on it actually is in the VirtualHUD. The only thing that is different is the actual display itself. I use all the hardware for attitude, gps, compass, etc that I developed for the glass cockpit in this unit. The big difference is that, to me, that stuff was easy… projecting presented it’s own challenges which I have been working out for the past 18 months.
9.) Doesn’t the display flicker on the prop? No, at the engines slowest speed of 750 rpm, the refresh rate is still 25 hz. Which is the speed of movies in a theater. 750rpm/60seconds*2 prop blades = 25 sweeps per second (hz). When the pilot speeds up the prop to cruise, the prop is spinning at 2500 to 2700 rpm, which makes an amazingly clear display at 83hz to 90hz . If the prop has 3 blades, it is even clearer. The system is able to track the propeller and only project the laser beams on it without missing. It’s like the old WWI machine gun interrupters that prevented the pilots from shooting off the propeller blades in a fight, only in reverse. With this system, we want to only hit the propeller with the laser and not an oncoming aircraft.
10.) Can it project in color? Yes. Currently, the prototype has two colors, Red (635nm) for night flying and Green (523nm) for day flying. I have also developed a laser diode that contains 4 colors, Red, Green, Blue and Infra-red. The RGB Lasers are for doing full color displays and the IR laser is used to scan the propeller for things like Direction of Spin, Speed, Size and the Pitch of the blades (for Constant Speed Props.) My current prototype doesn’t use the IR Laser, instead, it uses 4 high intensity IR-Light Emitting Diodes to light up the propeller area. It works, but the IR laser is 100 times more accurate.
I am still tweaking on the units (I have 3 prototypes,) and even have a few suprises up my sleeves, but those will have to wait for “really interested parties” to help seal the deals.
Let me know what you think!