Electronics Integration and Verification
The use of electronic systems in new aircraft designs has steadily expanded along with greater interconnectivity and coupling between these systems. Each aircraft subsystem supplier develops and tests their Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) and its mating electronic system(s) through a range of verification tests as part of its development process and as required for airworthiness certification. But it’s when all of these complex, interdependent systems are brought together and integrated that many of the design and implementation anomalies and flaws are discovered.
Furthermore, new aircraft designs have added on-board wireless networking for passenger info and entertainment and to support the adoption of Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) capability. Ensuring that these network interfaces are fully secure, and cannot be exploited through some type of hack, is a critical task.
The avionics integration facility provides a powerful, simulation-based tool that is used to integrate and test these aircraft subsystems with lower cost and no risk of damaging a flight test aircraft in the process and provides the ideal platform for assessing and evaluating aircraft cybersecurity. The ADvantage Framework provides the software platform that layers on top of commercial-off-the-shelf computer equipment to create the real-time, simulation testing backbone for the avionics integration facility.
Supporting the Flight Test Program
The flight test program involves using some number of highly-instrumented prototype aircraft to fly an exhaustive series of test flights. During the execution of these test cases, unexpected behavior is inevitably observed. The avionics integration facility is put to work as a tool for repeating and investigating the unexpected behavior discovered during test flights. The specific conditions that resulted in the error may be replayed and the source of the problem can be determined. The problematic test case may be run again and again until the root of the problem is found. The ADvantage Framework includes the tremendous depth of capabilities required to enable this critically important work.
Distributed Real-Time Simulation
The real-time simulation computer provides the simulation and testing backbone for the avionics integration facility. This computer system must interface with aircraft equipment throughout the lab. To minimize cable lengths and spread the computational load, the real-time simulation system uses a distributed, multi-node computational architecture. The ADvantage Framework includes the ADvNet Toolbox that allows distributed configurations to be easily implemented, controlled, and monitored.
An out-the-window visual scene generation system is typically used to provide the test pilot with realistic situational awareness. Scene generation systems include high-fidelity 3D animation, airport and runway modeling, and ground elevation. During simulated flight, the elevation above the ground will be determined by the out-the-window scene generation system and transmitted to the aircraft flight dynamics model. Latitude and longitude position, altitude, pitch, roll, yaw, and velocities are fed by the real-time flight dynamics simulation to the scene generation system, allowing the correct visual representation to be displayed. The ADvantage Framework makes it easy to establish the necessary closed-loop connection between the real-time simulation backbone and a commercially available out-the-window display system.
Integrated Modular Avionics
Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) is a relatively new paradigm for the architecture and overall implementation of aircraft avionics systems. IMA makes better use of high-speed computer networks to share data, provides decoupling of software function and processing resources to better utilize powerful, multi-core processor technology, and provides a strategy to minimize cable interconnection (and thus weight) as the role and capability of avionics systems expands. IMA platforms were first used on the F-22 and F-35 and have since been used in a wide range of aircraft including the A380, A350, and Boeing 787. IMA systems introduce a tremendous amount of new technology in an aircraft program and as a result add a high level of technology risk. Simulation-based lab test facilities, such as the avionics integration lab, provide an important tool for the aircraft development program to mitigate this new technology risk. The ADvantage Framework continues to play a significant role in the development, integration, and verification of IMA systems for the latest aircraft designs.
Network Communication Testing
With more and more electronic systems in an aircraft, collecting data from more and more sensors, and sharing this data with other electronic systems, serial communication using digital networks throughout the aircraft is unavoidable. The ARINC-429 network databus commonly found in civil aircraft and the MIL-STD-1553 network databus found in military aircraft are nothing new but new aircraft designs are using more and more channels of these traditional networks. In addition to this older technology, low-cost Ethernet network technology has found its way into the aircraft in what’s called ARINC-664 or AFDX. ARINC-664 uses a cascaded star network topology, sophisticated network switches, and dual-redundant lines to provide determinism and fault-tolerant communication, as opposed to the not-so-deterministic communication offered with the TCP/IP Ethernet found in LANs. ARINC-664 offers network transmission speeds up to 1000x faster than ARINC-429 and can move far more information over a single cable link. Verifying and validating this aircraft network communication is an important task for the avionics integration facility. The ADvantage Framework includes a tremendous depth of capabilities required to perform comprehensive aero/defense network communication testing.