The database concepts, tools, and runtime software described in this article provide a methodology for creating advanced avionics human-machine interfaces (HMIs), such as those found in modern flat-panel display systems. The key innovation described is the ability to treat the avionics displays as databases rather than as compiled and linked software. This new technology facilitates the goals of open architecture for avionics, a key avionics industry trend.Much of the development effort in a modern avionics system, such as the one illustrated in Figure 1, is expended creating graphical HMIs to display data and control the avionics system. In recent years, the complexity of HMIs has dramatically increased with new capabilities such as situational awareness fusion of terrain, radar, or traffic data; user-interactive control of systems and navigation; and complex systems displays to assist in managing the aircraft.
A key trend in avionics is change. Increasingly, avionics systems have to deal with new regulatory guidance and technologies being developed to address such issues as:
Adapting to such change invariably impacts the HMI of the flight deck system. Multifunction controllers in the system require the ability to adapt and grow to meet new requirements. At the same time, the methods used to build these systems have not kept pace. Increasing complexity has led avionics systems to be more complex and resistant to change. New methods to create avionics HMIs are required to address these emerging needs.
An HMI is composed of dynamic graphical content that displays data and may control user interaction. The development of HMIs typically involves coding the HMI graphical constructs and user-interaction elements using APIs that reference standard libraries such as graphics and windowing libraries. An HMI may need to run on an embedded system with limited resources, making the correct implementation a difficult task. Writing HMI code by hand is tedious and error-prone.
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