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Rochester-based BAE Systems launches revolutionary LiteWave aircraft system

One of the county's top firms has launched a state-of-the-art product which aims to make flying easier and safer.

Rochester-based BAE Systems has developed a new lightweight Head-Up Display (HUD) for use in commercial and military aircraft.

Lee Tomlinson speaks about LiteWave

The device, which is the size of a laptop and has 1,562 types of component, has been years in development – costing up to £23 million to produce.

Although HUD technology has been around for several decades in one form or another, BAE bosses feel LiteWave is a game changer because its compact size makes it suitable for all types of aircraft.

It works with a clear screen sitting in front of the pilot's face through which they can see the world in front of them.

Vital information about the plane's status is overlaid on the screen – meaning whoever is flying doesn't have to keep looking down at their instruments to check things like speed and altitude.

It is designed in such a way that even if the pilot moves around in their seat, they are still able to see the projected information from different angles.

A BAE Systems' engineer working on the technology
A BAE Systems' engineer working on the technology

The company's director of HUD products, Lee Tomlinson, says another major advantage of LiteWave is the fact it can be installed in aircraft far quicker than existing devices – just four hours as opposed to 24.

He said: “LiteWave can be fitted into virtually any cockpit in the world.

“Our engineers have created a digital display that is smaller, lighter and uses less power than any other Head-Up Display.

"It has the potential to revolutionise the market and make HUD technology far more accessible.”

The system can be easily adjusted to suit any individual flying position and allows the pilot to maintain "situational awareness", even during poor weather or at night.

LiteWave in place in the BAE simulator
LiteWave in place in the BAE simulator

For example when flying through fog or snow, the pilot is shown vital details such as where the runway is, despite not being able to actually see it because of the conditions.

The Marconi Way-based business, which employs more than 1,400 people, is now ready to take the technology to the marketplace and begin flight trials for future customers on commercial and military aircraft.

LiteWave is manufactured at BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems site, which has innovated and invested in cockpit displays for more than 60 years.

It has produced more than 15,000 HUDs, which are in service on more than 50 different aircraft types in more than 50 countries.

This includes some of the most advanced military aircraft, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F-22 Raptor.

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