Copper and Fiber Co-Exist in Commercial Aerospace

Abstract

Aircraft depend increasingly on digital electronics for information and control. The trend toward MEA (more electric aircraft) highlights the transition from mechanical systems to electronically controlled systems. As the electronics content in both aircraft operation and passenger amenities continues to grow, so do the processing loads. Embedded computers are evolving to allow ever-increasing sophistication in flight sensors and radar. Distributed processing—moving the processing power from a centralized location to the point of use—still requires communication between boxes.

The bottom line is that modern commercial aircraft do a lot more processing throughout the plane. High-bandwidth computing also requires higher bandwidth in the cables connecting the various boxes. While protocols like IEEE 1394 and USB are finding application, Ethernet has emerged as the de facto favorite, with 1 Gb/s today and 10 Gb/s soon being required to carry the load.

At the same time, embedded computing systems and associated interconnections must meet the drive for lower SWaP, consuming less space, weight, and power, while also satisfying the need for rugged components to withstand the vibration and other hazards common in aircraft.

As commercial aircraft offer more services to passengers—from video on demand to Internet access—the interconnection backbone delivering services to each seat must accommodate the higher bandwidth requirements. At the same time, aircraft manufacturers are looking at plug and play solutions that install easily, are robust and reliable, and require little or no maintenance. Given the life span of commercial aircraft, a physical layer that can accommodate future upgrades to electronics is equally desirable. Republished from: Intelligent Aerospace (September 2014)