Bothell, WA — Microvision, Inc. announced that it has received a $1.5 million Phase III SBIR contract from the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) in Fort Eustis, Va., under the Army’s Virtual Cockpit Optimization Program (VCOP).
The contract award follows the successful completion of a Phase II SBIR in which the company teamed with Boeing Phantom Works, the advanced research and development arm of The Boeing Company, to identify and analyze operational, functional, and interface requirements for an advanced VRD helmet-mounted display (HMD) to be integrated with Boeing-developed software as an advanced visualization system for Army helicopters.
The $1.5 million contract will fund continued work by Microvision and Boeing through the end of 1999, with the potential for additional funding to follow. According to government sources, only 3% of those company’s participating in SBIR program opportunities successfully reach the Phase III level which is intended to initiate the commercialization phase of the program.
“We are pleased that the Army continues to place confidence in the partnership between Microvision and Boeing,” said Rick Rutkowski, Microvision president and CEO. “This contract award is a significant endorsement of the technical merit of our approach, and the future market potential for this system. We are also delighted that we now have a contract vehicle that can accommodate a transition from development to product procurement down the line.”
The virtual cockpit system consists of a powerful processor and graphics generator that collects and processes flight data, mission cues, and sensor imagery from the aircraft systems and then merges and presents the information to the pilot in a graphical “heads-up” mode on Microvision’s VRD-based helmet mounted display. Microvision’s retinal scanning display was selected for its unique ability to deliver high-resolution color images that are “readable” in full sunlight conditions. Color is a unique and essential feature for the information-rich Virtual Cockpit environment, because a monochrome display can become confusing as the graphic interface includes more and more visual elements.
The VCOP system has the potential to dramatically reduce the high cost of upgrading existing aircraft. By employing an advanced HMD display system in the cockpit, many older instruments and gauges can be either removed or used in a back up mode only, which allows for weight and power savings, in addition to savings in the development and installation of replacement systems. The ability of a helmet-mounted display to overlay flight reference data, sensor imagery, and weapons symbology, on the outside world can also provide a very powerful performance boost to both aircraft and pilot. When a pilot can view “keep out zones” from threat radar and missile sites and superimpose a safe “pathway-in-the-sky” flight path, they gain a significant improvement in survivability and mission effectiveness.