If you’re reading this at the Paris Air Show, RTCA or Avionics’ own Global Connected Aircraft Summit, take a look at this issue’s pictures of aircraft cockpits and cabins — or see them in person at Le Bourget Airport. While pilots and passengers look at today’s avionics and cabin systems as an assortment of high-definition displays and seat-back screens, avionics engineers look at those same devices as nodes on an ever-increasing complex network within the airframe.
In this month’s issue, we dive into the wires, cables, connectors and data-bus architectures that are crucial to providing the seamless functionality used for human interaction with aircraft systems throughout the airframe. With copper still dominating a majority of the electrical wiring interconnect systems in in-service airframes, avionics network data rates have maxed at 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) — or have they?
Military aircraft operational units and the suppliers they use are already exploring the transition from 10 to 40 Gbps. While this may seem like a gigantic leap, think about how quickly the industry was able to achieve 10 Gbps. One thing is for sure, while Mil-Std-1553B isn’t going anywhere any time soon, it’s estimated maximum data rates of 200 Mbps won’t be able to support the types of advanced, dynamic avionics video, imagery and graphic-intensive applications that companies are working on right now.
Elsewhere, it’s possible for wireless avionics intra-communication standards to help reduce aircraft wiring by as much as 30% and enable short-range radio communications between aircraft systems to occur in a way previously only radar altimeters have — within the 4,200 to 4,400 MHz band, previously approved for wireless avionics communications by the International Telecommunications Union in 2015.
We’ve also provided a glimpse at what the latest avionics technology on an in-service Boeing airframe would look like in 2020 — and it has nothing to do with ADS-B.