Graphics and Video Advances Feed Situational Awareness Needs

Leveraging cutting-edge graphics chips developed for the demanding gaming market, military graphics subsystems are now able to offer complex video and graphics functionality in highly integrated board-level solutions. Cockpit displays and simulation/training applications rank as two of the most demanding users of these advanced graphics technologies. But as the military migrates to a more network-centric mode of operations, situational awareness requirements are becoming ever more sophisticated—combining video, graphics, voice and text in real time.

An example of today’s more sophisticated military display needs is Z Microsystems Intelligent Display Series (IDS) panels (Figure 1). Z Microsystems last month announced the first shipment of its ground control displays on a multi-million dollar contract to upgrade UAV ground stations. Acting as a subcontractor to a major supplier of UAS, Z Microsystems displays will be used by ground control station operators and analysts in the U.S. military to monitor live video feeds.

Z Microsystems’ display panels are available with 17, 21 and 24-inch active display areas. The displays offer multiple PiP (Picture-in-Picture) windows and offer numerous mounting options. The ground control displays are designed to work in unison with the Any Image Anywhere (AIA) image enhancement system, which executes image enhancement algorithms in real time on live, full-motion video.

High Definition Meets Rackmount

Sophisticated graphics and video data are becoming the norm for military situational awareness systems. Addressing those and similar applications, Neuro Logic Systems recently announced what it’s calling the world’s largest ruggedized 2U rackmount HD-ready 24-inch LCD (Figure 2). Designed for installation in a standard 19-inch RETMA equipment rack or military transport case, it provides the largest high-resolution video display in the smallest storage space.

The RFTD-24-R display is fully operational in the rack or transit case, and the modular display head can be easily removed and placed on a desktop stand for added convenience. All features and components are installed in an aluminum alloy housing designed to meet Military Specifications 461E, 167, 810 and 901D. Although originally designed for military use, the RFTD-24-R can be used in any harsh environment.

Big Screen Sophistication

At the Command and Control level, it has taken some pushing to get strategic military officers to part comfortably with their elaborate set of wall maps. Now that reliable, advanced wall-mounted displays have emerged, those old paper maps are finally being replaced with electronic displays across the board. An example along those lines, the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Displays and Intelligent Interfaces (ADII) program has developed the Interactive DataWall (IDW) to facilitate better information management and improve situational awareness in battlefield command and control environments. To achieve this capability, the ADII program’s Interactive DataWall uses RGB Spectrum’s SuperView multi-image display processors with three high-resolution video projectors tiled onto large screens.

The Interactive DataWall fosters collaboration and participation among decision makers. Each IDW uses three SuperView processors to create a tiled display of screens positioned to create a single continuous image. The SuperView processor’s advanced image processing performance provides high levels of detail and viewing clarity, especially useful for depicting intricate graphical maps and satellite imagery. The SuperView processor can display up to twelve real-time video and computer signals on a single high-resolution screen.

3D Enters the Game

Gone are the days when basic text displays were sufficient for military situational awareness needs. Full-motion video, advanced graphics and even 3D are now requirements. Wolf Military and Aerospace now offers three new, legacy XMC bus, video graphics daughter cards. The 2D and 3D rendering speed of these cards exceeds that of previous-generation ATi Radeon units by more than 10 times. Wolf’s XMC-E4690 high-performance graphics cards (Figure 3) offer 28 standard combinations of dual independent display outputs: DVI, DP, HDMI, single and dual links, LVDS, TMDS, VGA, SCART, STANAG 3350-A;B or C, NTSC, RS170, RS343A, PAL and SECAM. And the XMC-E4690-XTCC-MV offers 28 combinations of dual channel video output, and dual independent video channel inputs.

Technologies like 3D and full-motion video are particularly pushing the envelope in military training and simulation systems. In an example, earlier this year GE Intelligent Platforms received an order for automatic video trackers from Link Simulation and Training of Arlington, Texas. The order is for a number of GE ADEPT74 real-time video tracker processing boards that will be employed as a major element of the U.S. Army’s AVCATT (Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer) AH-64D simulation and training system upgrade program.

The GE Intelligent Platforms ADEPT74 is a full-featured automatic video tracker and image processor. It was chosen for its flexibility, powerful processing capability, and the facility to take the input of high-speed digital data directly from electro-optical sensors. A PMC site on the board allows the ADEPT74 greater flexibility for the provision of additional input video formats and image processing functionality. AVCATT is a mobile and reconfigurable virtual simulation system designed to support unit collective and combined arms training. Each AVCATT suite provides six manned modules, reconfigurable to any combination of attack, reconnaissance, lift and/or cargo helicopters. Platforms that can be simulated include AH-64A, AH-64D, OH-58D, UH-60A/L and CH-47D. AVCATT is employed to train both active and reserve component aircrews deploying in support of overseas contingency operations.

Realism Now Possible

The application of sophisticated graphics and video technology along with today’s level of computing muscle is enabling new levels of realism in military simulators (Figure 4). Earlier this year Presagis announced that Lyra, along with other Presagis tools, was delivered as part of a Boeing-developed solution for the United States Air Force F-15C Eagle tactical fighter training program. In November 2009, Boeing fielded the four F-15C Visual Systems Trainers. Presagis Lyra and Lyra Sensors COTS Visual Runtime software were integrated into the training system to provide realistic out-the-window, infrared sensor and night vision goggle views for the fighter jet scenarios. The Presagis Technical Services team also supported the development of the simulator’s Visual Database.

Depicting visual cues—exactly the way a pilot would see it if they were looking at the landscape through night vision goggles or from the cockpit—is critical to a positive training experience and success in the actual aircraft. With Presagis tools, Boeing can efficiently create the immersive and high-fidelity scenarios the Air Force needs to train their personnel. Presagis Lyra, a multichannel visualization system delivering 60 Hz image generation out of the box, provides out-the-window scenes with complex weather and environmental special effects. Lyra Sensors provides simulated views from the aircraft’s infrared sensors as well as accurately replicating the pilot’s night vision goggles system.

DisplayPort Moves to Embedded

DisplayPort, a relatively new digital display interface standard put forth by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA), defines a new royalty-free, digital audio/video interconnect intended to be used primarily between a computer and its display monitor, or a computer and a home theater system. DisplayPort is a competitor to the HDMI connector (with HDCP copy-protection), the de facto standard digital connection for high-definition consumer electronics devices. The military is more likely to embrace the royalty-free DisplayPort. Another competitor was Unified Display Interface, however, the founding companies abandoned UDI in favor of DisplayPort.

Kontron offers a 3U CompactPCI multicore board with the CP308-MEDIA extension card, which is one of the first embedded products to feature DisplayPort. With S/P-DIF-Out audio and the stereo audio ports for Line In, Line Out and Microphone, the processor board with the KCP308-MEDIA card from Kontron adds extensive multimedia capabilities to embedded computing. The CP308-MEDIA features the 45nm Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at up to 2.26 GHz, the most powerful embedded Intel GS45 Graphics and Memory Controller Hub, up to 8 Gbytes of energy-efficient DDR3 RAM, and the Intel I/O Controller Hub ICH9M. The CP308-MEDIA features two DisplayPort interfaces on the front for direct-drive, end-to-end communication between the board and different panels. Compared to DVI or LVDS, DisplayPort reduces cabling, connector footprint and minimizes the need for additional monitor electronics for panel control. The latching DisplayPort connector guarantees utmost mechanical stability. With conventional adapters, DisplayPort also connects to HDMI, DVI or VGA monitors.

GE Intelligent Platforms
Charlottesville, VA.
(800) 368-2738.
[www.ge-ip.com].

Kontron
Poway, CA.
(888) 294-4558.
[www.kontron.com].

Neuro Logic Systems
Camarillo, CA.
(805) 389-5435.
[www.nlsdisplays.com].

Presagis
Montreal, Quebec
Canada.
(514) 341-3874.
[www.presagis.com].

RGB Spectrum
Alameda, CA.
(510) 814 7000.
[www.rgb.com].

Wolf Industrial Systems
Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada.
(800) 931-4114.
[www.wolf.ca].

Z Microsystems
San Diego, CA.
(858) 831-7000.
[www.zmicro.com].