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Thales unveils revolutionary head-worn display system for business jets

Las Vegas. On the opening day (November 17) of the NBAA show, Thales unveiled TopMax, the world’s first civilian head-worn display, providing a 360° field of view and total eye-out functionalities that increase safety for business jet pilots especially during critical phases and in low visibility.

TopMax is the result of Thales’s decades long experience in military helmet mounted sight displays (HMSD) and civilian head up displays (HUD). The group’s innovation teams have long been seeking to address the contradictory needs for an affordable, compact head-up vision system with an extra-large field of view for the civilian market to complement existing HUD systems, a complex technical challenge for the whole civil aerospace market, and much more for smaller business aircraft.

Thales worked on the challenge by taking inspiration from vision systems available in the consumer tech industry and, using assets from military HMSD, they designed a brand new system that can be worn by civilian pilots and does not require a large fixed mount.

The result is TopMax, a lightweight head-worn display that completely bridges the technological gap between a military HMSD and a civilian HUD. First demonstrated at the Paris Air Show 2015, TopMax provides low visibility take off/landing functions, Enhanced Flight Vision and Synthetic Vision capabilities of a fixed HUD, but like an HMSD it gives a 360° field of view and total eye-out functionality.

To add to this, Thales was able to integrate functionalities at the heart of its HMSD products, including head tracking system for target designation and cueing functions. This evolution allows a civilian pilot to look at objects like 3D traffic to better understand their position and, in some cases like waypoints select them for inclusion in the FMS as direct destinations in the same way a military pilot can select targets visually for inclusion in targeting operations.

This translates into significant benefits to business jet pilots, whose mission types in certain respects are not far off military missions. Both face challenges such as approach and landing at smaller airports with low visibility conditions and require a high level of situational awareness in a highly flexible operational context. With TopMax, pilots are thus able to achieve their mission and serve the needs of their passengers in a more efficient and safer way.

“Being inspired by our military applications to produce innovative products for the civil market is part of our DNA, but in TopMax we believe to have developed true game changer. It fulfills a set of market needs that were previously thought to be impossible to be addressed by the civil market. TopMax represents the future of the civil aviation market,” said Gil Michielin, Thales Executive Vice President, Avionics.