A Conversation with UA CEO, Dror Yahav
For 38 years, UA has been a family run company. Now a year after its acquisition by Elbit Systems, a new CEO steps in with a fresh vision of the future, laser-focus on product development, and relentless energy. Here, UA’s CEO, Dror Yahav speaks to what the future will look like under his tenure.
You have said that UA is going back to the company’s innovative roots and will be reinventing the future of commercial aviation. Where do you see UA in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see growth in the helicopter, commercial, and business aviation market segments. Over these next few years, we will be positioning ourselves around new and innovative products. Specifically, with a focus on Flight Management Systems (FMS), data communications, and Enhanced Flight Vision Systems (EFVS), and most importantly, bundling them all together.
What does the future of the FMS look like?
First, let me say that I think we have the best FMS engineers, test pilots, and product managers in the industry. Their vast knowledge and experience is superior. The FMS is our flagship product and we are committed to advancing it beyond what we are doing now. In the future, operators can expect to see software FMS functions integrated into many different platforms on third party hardware. This will allow for more combined capabilities inside the main avionics hardware. We are supporting this with developments to have a software version of the FMS that can be easily incorporated into any hardware.
You mentioned Data Communications will be a focus as well. What is the outlook on that technology?
Data link is continuing to evolve, to include new regulations for Future Air Navigation System (FANS) 1/A+ and Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC). The upload and download of aircraft information is also a major requirement to support ‘big data’ communications. This will need to be supported, both in the air and on the ground, and we are working to make sure future products address this. We recognize the challenge operators face with needing this to be done in the most commercially affordable way at any given moment. In addition, we are seeing new and evolving requirements for cyber protection; this will also be built into our future products.
Big picture question - how will UA shape the future of commercial aviation?
The future of commercial aviation is heading toward simplified avionics technologies to support single pilot operations and autonomous flying. Therefore, we will position ourselves to support an easier mode of flight with pilot interfaces based upon Enhanced Vision and pilot Line-of-Sight (LOS). These unique and groundbreaking ways of flying will result in an easier means of controlling the aircraft. It will be a completely new Human Machine Interface, compared to what is known in the industry. Further into the future, we will continue to develop Enhanced Vision cameras and sensors that incorporate state-of-the-art image processing capabilities, to support autonomous flying, allowing operators to become less and less dependent on airport ground infrastructure.
There is quite a bit of consolidation in the industry which will increase competition. What will set UA apart from its competitors?
While our competitors, now large, consolidated companies, offer many products, they kind of break the important balance between the supplier vs customer/OEM. In most cases, they are bigger than their customers, and act accordingly. UA is very customer-focused and is dedicated to maintaining close relationships with our customers/OEMs to ensure they receive the biggest advantages from avionics technologies. It’s an opportunity for the customer/OEM and UA, and we intend to focus on support and intimacy in the future more than ever.
Elbit Systems is known to be a military-focused company. How will this military experience influence UA’s product offerings?
Avionics technologies are often adopted early on in the military market. For example, EFVS and Head-Up Displays (HUD) all started in the military market and were integrated into the commercial world later on. For Elbit Systems, a company with roots in the military market, we are able to see what global trends lie ahead. This heritage provides UA with the know-how and training to be able to apply mature technologies into the commercial aviation market earlier and faster than others. I believe this combination of experience will propel the company forward in terms of product development, and it’s very exciting.