How NVIDIA's Tegra processor can help land a plane in an emergency

Dec 03, 2012 by Brian Caufield
The VP-400′s display shows pilots what they need to know to land safely.

You know the routine: Board a flight. Put your seat in the upright position. Tuck away your tray table. Turn off all your portable electronic devices.

Well, here's one electronic device you won't want turned off.

Built using the same Tegra processors found in smart phones, tablets and cars, the Vertical Power VP-400 Runway Seeker can steer a single-engine towards a safe landing in the event of an emergency.

All a user has to do to activate it: tug back on the plane's throttle and push a big red button on the device's touch-screen. Then cross your arms and leave the flying to Tegra.

"We're not the first ones to come up with the idea, but we're the first ones to implement it," says Marc Ausman, co-founder and president of the small aviation company that began selling the product in November.

The device is sold as an add-on to the electronic circuit breaker technology Vertical Power sells to small aircraft builders, and is installed in a plane's instrument panel. As the plane flies, the VP-400′s screen shows nearby airports.

Normally, the VP-400 is just a backup electronic flight instrumentation system. When the runway seeker feature is activated, however, the VP-400 taps into the plane's controls via the electronic circuit breaker system.

How NVIDIA’s Tegra processor can help land a plane in an emergency
Once the VP-400′s Runway Seeker is engaged, it manages the plane’s descent, steering it to the nearest runway.

It then steers the plane to the nearest runway if there is an , that causes a pilot to lose his orientation or the pilot becomes incapacitated.

White 'highway in the sky' boxes displayed on the screen show the plane's progress.

To make it work, Vertical Power brought together a number of technologies, in addition to the electronics systems it sells to small aircraft builders.

Sophisticated flight simulation software built by X-Plane calculates the effect such factors as the plane's speed and position on all the surfaces of the aircraft.

The VP-400 also relies on databases that describe airports, terrain, and any obstacles that could be encountered.

A Tegra processor on a Colibri T20 module does all the calculations. The Colibri T20 is designed by embedded computing module specialist Toradex, which also supplies the tiny module's Linux-based operating system.

As the plane flies, the Tegra calculates a glide path to every runway within range 30 times a second, taking into account factors such as wind speeds, runway lengths, terrain and potential obstacles.

Once a pilot pushes a button, the path to the nearest airport is locked in.

"For humans to estimate that in the middle of an emergency is very difficult to do, whereas it is relative easy and unemotional for a powerful microprocessor to do," Ausman says.

The result: the plane is guided to what's known as 'short final,' where a pilot is staring the runway in the face and can take over to land the plane.

Explore further: The delivery drones are coming, so rules and safety standards will be needed – fast

Related Stories

Airbus shows off a see-thru concept plane (w/ video)

Jun 14, 2011

( -- Airbus has begun to show off its version of the plane of the future. It is somewhere between cool and disturbing, depending on who you ask, but it definitely represents some interesting new technology that ...

Road-worthy plane? Or sky-worthy car?

Feb 03, 2009

( -- What began as an MIT student project has evolved into a working prototype of a two-seater airplane that can be quickly converted into a road-worthy car. The car-plane has begun test flights ...

Solar plane lands in Spain on way back home

Jul 08, 2012

A solar-powered plane landed in Spain Saturday on its way back home after breaking a record with the first intercontinental flight by an aircraft run on the sun's energy, organisers said.

Icarus' revenge: Plane uses sun to power flight

Jun 21, 2011

(AP) -- The plane making one of the biggest splashes at the Paris Air Show carries a grand total of one person and is often delayed because there's too much wind or too little sun.

Recommended for you

Cost-effective production of magnetic sensors

15 hours ago

They are found wherever other measurement methods fail: magnetic sensors. They defy harsh environmental conditions and also function in fluids. A new procedure is now revolutionizing the production of two-dimensional ...

Measurement of components in 3D under water

15 hours ago

Conveying systems for oil and gas, operated in the sea have many important underwater components. The maintenance of such components is elaborate and expensive, as measuring them is complicated. Fraunhofer ...

Plastic parts for internal combustion engines

16 hours ago

Efforts to produce lighter vehicles necessarily include engine parts, such as the cylinder casing, which could shed up to 20 percent of its weight if it were made of fiber-reinforced plastic rather than aluminum ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.