The world’s deadliest aviation disaster took place on a foggy airport runway rather than in the air. That’s why NASA is offering augmented reality glasses that would allow commercial airline pilots to see a virtual version of runways in even the worst weather conditions.
Such glasses represent a portable head-worn display that shows critical flight information such as airspeed, altitude and orientation floating in front of one eye at all times. The NASA display would also track pilots’ heads so that an updated virtual outline of an airport’s runways and towers always appears wherever they look — allowing them to keep their attention on what’s happening outside rather than staring at a chart or tablet.
“If pilots are not familiar with the airport, they have to stop and pull out maps,” said Trey Arthur, an electronics engineer at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. “This display, in the new world where these routes are going to be digital, can tell them what taxiway they’re on, where they need to go, where they’re headed, and how well they’re tracking the runway’s center line.”