Avionics are the electronic systems used on aircraft, artificial satellites, and spacecraft. Avionic systems include communications, navigation, the display and management of multiple systems, and the hundreds of systems that are fitted to aircraft to perform individual functions. These can be as simple as a searchlight for a police helicopter or as complicated as the tactical system for an airborne early warning platform. The term avionics is a portmanteau of the words aviation and electronics.
The term "avionics" was coined by the journalist Philip J. Klass as a portmanteau of "aviation electronics". Many modern avionics have their origins in World War II wartime developments. For example, autopilot systems that are commonplace today began as specialized systems to help bomber planes fly steadily enough to hit precision targets from high altitudes. Famously, radar was developed in the UK, Germany, and the United States during the same period. Modern avionics is a substantial portion of military aircraft spending. Aircraft like the F‑15E and the now retired F‑14 have roughly 20 percent of their budget spent on avionics. Most modern helicopters now have budget splits of 60/40 in favour of avionics.
The civilian market has also seen a growth in cost of avionics. Flight control systems (fly-by-wire) and new navigation needs brought on by tighter airspaces, have pushed up development costs. The major change has been the recent boom in consumer flying. As more people begin to use planes as their primary method of transportation, more elaborate methods of controlling aircraft safely in these high restrictive airspaces have been invented.
Avionics plays a heavy role in modernization initiatives like the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Next Generation Air Transportation System project in the United States and the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) initiative in Europe. The Joint Planning and Development Office put forth a roadmap for avionics in six areas:
The Aircraft Electronics Association reports $1.73 billion avionics sales for the first three quarters of 2017 in business and general aviation, a 4.1% yearly improvement: 73.5% came from North America, forward-fit represented 42.3% while 57.7% were retrofits as the U.S. deadline of Jan. 1, 2020 for mandatory ADS-B out approach.
The cockpit of an aircraft is a typical location for avionic equipment, including control, monitoring, communication, navigation, weather, and anti-collision systems. The majority of aircraft power their avionics using 14- or 28‑volt DC electrical systems; however, larger, more sophisticated aircraft (such as airliners or military combat aircraft) have AC systems operating at 400 Hz, 115 volts AC. There are several major vendors of flight avionics, including Panasonic Avionics Corporation, Honeywell (which now owns Bendix/King), Universal Avionics Systems Corporation, Rockwell Collins (now Collins Aerospace), Thales Group, GE Aviation Systems, Garmin, Raytheon, Parker Hannifin, UTC Aerospace Systems and Avidyne Corporation.
International standards for avionics equipment are prepared by the Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) and published by ARINC.
Communications connect the flight deck to the ground and the flight deck to the passengers. On‑board communications are provided by public-address systems and aircraft intercoms.
The VHF aviation communication system works on the airband of 118.000 MHz to 136.975 MHz. Each channel is spaced from the adjacent ones by 8.33 kHz in Europe, 25 kHz elsewhere. VHF is also used for line of sight communication such as aircraft-to-aircraft and aircraft-to-ATC. Amplitude modulation (AM) is used, and the conversation is performed in simplex mode. Aircraft communication can also take place using HF (especially for trans-oceanic flights) or satellite communication.
Air navigation is the determination of position and direction on or above the surface of the Earth. Avionics can use satellite navigation systems (such as GPS and WAAS), INS( inertial navigation system), ground-based radio navigation systems (such as VOR or LORAN), or any combination thereof. Navigation systems calculate the position automatically and display it to the flight crew on moving map displays. Older avionics required a pilot or navigator to plot the intersection of signals on a paper map to determine an aircraft's location; modern systems calculate the position automatically and display it to the flight crew on moving map displays.
The first hints of glass cockpits emerged in the 1970s when flight-worthy cathode ray tube (CRT) screens began to replace electromechanical displays, gauges and instruments. A "glass" cockpit refers to the use of computer monitors instead of gauges and other analog displays. Aircraft were getting progressively more displays, dials and information dashboards that eventually competed for space and pilot attention. In the 1970s, the average aircraft had more than 100 cockpit instruments and controls.
Glass cockpits started to come into being with the Gulfstream G‑IV private jet in 1985. One of the key challenges in glass cockpits is to balance how much control is automated and how much the pilot should do manually. Generally they try to automate flight operations while keeping the pilot constantly informed.
Aircraft have means of automatically controlling flight. Autopilot was first invented by Lawrence Sperry during World War I to fly bomber planes steady enough to hit accurate targets from 25,000 feet. When it was first adopted by the U.S. military, a Honeywell engineer sat in the back seat with bolt cutters to disconnect the autopilot in case of emergency. Nowadays most commercial planes are equipped with aircraft flight control systems in order to reduce pilot error and workload at landing or takeoff.
The first simple commercial auto-pilots were used to control heading and altitude and had limited authority on things like thrust and flight control surfaces. In helicopters, auto-stabilization was used in a similar way. The first systems were electromechanical. The advent of fly by wire and electro-actuated flight surfaces (rather than the traditional hydraulic) has increased safety. As with displays and instruments, critical devices that were electro-mechanical had a finite life. With safety critical systems, the software is very strictly tested.
To supplement air traffic control, most large transport aircraft and many smaller ones use a traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS), which can detect the location of nearby aircraft, and provide instructions for avoiding a midair collision. Smaller aircraft may use simpler traffic alerting systems such as TPAS, which are passive (they do not actively interrogate the transponders of other aircraft) and do not provide advisories for conflict resolution.
To help avoid controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), aircraft use systems such as ground-proximity warning systems (GPWS), which use radar altimeters as a key element. One of the major weaknesses of GPWS is the lack of "look-ahead" information, because it only provides altitude above terrain "look-down". In order to overcome this weakness, modern aircraft use a terrain awareness warning system (TAWS).
Commercial aircraft cockpit data recorders, commonly known as "black boxes", store flight information and audio from the cockpit. They are often recovered from an aircraft after a crash to determine control settings and other parameters during the incident.
Weather systems such as weather radar (typically Arinc 708 on commercial aircraft) and lightning detectors are important for aircraft flying at night or in instrument meteorological conditions, where it is not possible for pilots to see the weather ahead. Heavy precipitation (as sensed by radar) or severe turbulence (as sensed by lightning activity) are both indications of strong convective activity and severe turbulence, and weather systems allow pilots to deviate around these areas.
Lightning detectors like the Stormscope or Strikefinder have become inexpensive enough that they are practical for light aircraft. In addition to radar and lightning detection, observations and extended radar pictures (such as NEXRAD) are now available through satellite data connections, allowing pilots to see weather conditions far beyond the range of their own in-flight systems. Modern displays allow weather information to be integrated with moving maps, terrain, and traffic onto a single screen, greatly simplifying navigation.
Modern weather systems also include wind shear and turbulence detection and terrain and traffic warning systems. In‑plane weather avionics are especially popular in Africa, India, and other countries where air-travel is a growing market, but ground support is not as well developed.
There has been a progression towards centralized control of the multiple complex systems fitted to aircraft, including engine monitoring and management. Health and usage monitoring systems (HUMS) are integrated with aircraft management computers to give maintainers early warnings of parts that will need replacement.
The integrated modular avionics concept proposes an integrated architecture with application software portable across an assembly of common hardware modules. It has been used in fourth generation jet fighters and the latest generation of airliners.
Military aircraft have been designed either to deliver a weapon or to be the eyes and ears of other weapon systems. The vast array of sensors available to the military is used for whatever tactical means required. As with aircraft management, the bigger sensor platforms (like the E‑3D, JSTARS, ASTOR, Nimrod MRA4, Merlin HM Mk 1) have mission-management computers.
Police and EMS aircraft also carry sophisticated tactical sensors.
While aircraft communications provide the backbone for safe flight, the tactical systems are designed to withstand the rigors of the battle field. UHF, VHF Tactical (30–88 MHz) and SatCom systems combined with ECCM methods, and cryptography secure the communications. Data links such as Link 11, 16, 22 and BOWMAN, JTRS and even TETRA provide the means of transmitting data (such as images, targeting information etc.).
Airborne radar was one of the first tactical sensors. The benefit of altitude providing range has meant a significant focus on airborne radar technologies. Radars include airborne early warning (AEW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and even weather radar (Arinc 708) and ground tracking/proximity radar.
The military uses radar in fast jets to help pilots fly at low levels. While the civil market has had weather radar for a while, there are strict rules about using it to navigate the aircraft.
Dipping sonar fitted to a range of military helicopters allows the helicopter to protect shipping assets from submarines or surface threats. Maritime support aircraft can drop active and passive sonar devices (sonobuoys) and these are also used to determine the location of enemy submarines.
Electro-optic systems include devices such as the head-up display (HUD), forward looking infrared (FLIR), infra-red search and track and other passive infrared devices (Passive infrared sensor). These are all used to provide imagery and information to the flight crew. This imagery is used for everything from search and rescue to navigational aids and target acquisition.
Electronic support measures and defensive aids are used extensively to gather information about threats or possible threats. They can be used to launch devices (in some cases automatically) to counter direct threats against the aircraft. They are also used to determine the state of a threat and identify it.
The avionics systems in military, commercial and advanced models of civilian aircraft are interconnected using an avionics databus. Common avionics databus protocols, with their primary application, include:
Aeronautical Radio, Incorporated (ARINC), established in 1929, is a major provider of transport communications and systems engineering solutions for eight industries: aviation, airports, defense, government, healthcare, networks, security, and transportation. ARINC has installed computer data networks in police cars and railroad cars and also maintains the standards for line-replaceable units.ARINC was formerly headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, and has two regional headquarters in London, established in 1999 to serve the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, and Singapore, established in 2003 for the Asia Pacific region. ARINC has more than 3,200 employees at over 120 locations worldwide.
The sale of the company by Carlyle Group to Rockwell Collins was completed on December 23, 2013.Aerospace engineering
Aerospace engineering is the primary field of engineering concerned with the development of aircraft and spacecraft. It has two major and overlapping branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Avionics engineering is similar, but deals with the electronics side of aerospace engineering.
Aeronautical engineering was the original term for the field. As flight technology advanced to include craft operating in outer space (astronautics), the broader term "aerospace engineering" has come into common use. Aerospace engineering, particularly the astronautics branch is often colloquially referred to as "rocket science".Avionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet
Avionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet (AFDX) is a data network, patented by international aircraft manufacturer Airbus, for safety-critical applications that utilizes dedicated bandwidth while providing deterministic quality of service (QoS). AFDX is a worldwide registered trademark by Airbus. The AFDX data network is based on Ethernet technology using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components. The AFDX data network is a specific implementation of ARINC Specification 664 Part 7, a profiled version of an IEEE 802.3 network per parts 1 & 2, which defines how commercial off-the-shelf networking components will be used for future generation Aircraft Data Networks (ADN). The six primary aspects of an AFDX data network include full duplex, redundancy, determinism, high speed performance, switched and profiled network.CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder
The PAC JF-17 Thunder (Urdu: جے ایف-١٧ گرج), or CAC FC-1 Xiaolong (pinyin: Xiāo Lóng; literally: 'Fierce Dragon"), is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China. The JF-17 can be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. Its designation "JF-17" by Pakistan is short for "Joint Fighter-17", while the designation and name "FC-1 Xiaolong" by China means "Fighter China-1 Fierce Dragon".
The JF-17 can deploy diverse ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, and a 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel autocannon. Powered by a Guizhou WS-13 or Klimov RD-93 afterburning turbofan, it has a top speed of Mach 1.6. The JF-17 is to become the backbone of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), complementing the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon at half the cost. The PAF inducted its first JF-17 squadron in February 2010. In 2015 Pakistan produced 16 JF-17s. As of 2016, Pakistan is believed to have the capacity to produce 25 JF-17 per year. 58% of the airframe is Pakistani and 42% Chinese/Russian-origin. As of December 2016, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex has manufactured 70 jets in the country for use by the Pakistan Air Force of the Block 1 type, and 33 jets of the Block 2 type.The Pakistan Air Force plans, by 2017, to induct a twin-seater version known as the JF-17B for both enhanced operational capability and training. Preparations for a more advanced and technologically sophisticated block III version of the aircraft are underway and the AESA radar, KJ-7A, has been developed, which can track 15 targets and engage 4 targets simultaneously.Since its induction in 2011, the JF-17 Thunder has accumulated 19,000 hours of operational flight. The JF-17 has seen active military service as it is used by the Pakistan Air Force to bomb militant positions in the War in North-West Pakistan, using both unguided munitions and guided missiles for precision strike capability. The Nigerian Air Force has confirmed it is expecting delivery of JF-17 for use in military operations against militants in Northern Nigeria.Course deviation indicator
A course deviation indicator (CDI) is an avionics instrument used in aircraft navigation to determine an aircraft's lateral position in relation to a course. If the location of the aircraft is to the left of course, the needle deflects to the right, and vice versa.Garmin
Garmin Ltd. (shortened to Garmin, stylized as GARMIN, and formerly known as ProNav) is an American multinational technology company founded by Gary Burrell and Min Kao in 1989 in Lenexa, Kansas, United States, with headquarters located in Olathe, Kansas. Since 2010, the company is incorporated in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.The company specializes in GPS technology for automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor, and sport activities. Due to their development in wearable technology, they have also been competing with activity tracker and smartwatch consumer developers such as Fitbit and Apple.Heading indicator
The heading indicator (also called an HI) is a flight instrument used in an aircraft to inform the pilot of the aircraft's heading. It is sometimes referred to by its older names, the directional gyro or DG, and also (UK usage) direction indicator or DI.Hitchhiker Program
The Hitchhiker Program (HH) was a NASA program established in 1984 and administered by the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). The program was designed to allow low-cost and quick reactive experiments to be placed on board the Space Shuttle. The program was discontinued after the Space Shuttle Columbia accident of STS-107.Honeywell Aerospace
Honeywell Aerospace is a manufacturer of aircraft engines and avionics, as well as a producer of auxiliary power units (APUs) and other aviation products. Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, it is a division of the Honeywell International conglomerate. It generates approximately $10 billion in annual revenue from a 50/50 mix of commercial and defense contracts.
The company experienced a boom during World War II, when it equipped bomber planes with avionics and invented the auto-pilot. After the war it transitioned to a heavier focus on peacetime applications. Today Honeywell produces space equipment, turbine engines, auxiliary power units, brakes, wheels, synthetic vision, runway safety systems and other avionics.
A Honeywell APU was used in the notable emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 and a Honeywell blackbox survived under sea for years, thus exceeding by far its specified limits to reveal the details of the crash of Air France Flight 447. The company was also involved in the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey and in 90 percent of U.S. space missions. It's involved in the U.S. NextGen program and Europe's SESAR program for advancing avionics.
President Barack Obama awarded a Honeywell employee the National Medal of Technology for his contributions to air flight safety technology. The company owns dozens of patents related to NextGen technology, aircraft windshields, turbochargers and more. It was also involved in an 11-year-long patent dispute regarding ring laser gyroscope technology.IBM RAD6000
The RAD6000 radiation-hardened single board computer, based on the IBM RISC Single Chip CPU, was manufactured by IBM Federal Systems. IBM Federal Systems was sold to Loral, and by way of acquisition, ended up with Lockheed Martin and is currently a part of BAE Systems United States subsidiary BAE Systems Inc. operating group BAE Systems Electronics, Intelligence & Support. RAD6000 is mainly known as the onboard computer of numerous NASA spacecraft.Joint Electronics Type Designation System
The Joint Electronics Type Designation System (JETDS), which was previously known as the Joint Army-Navy Nomenclature System (AN System. JAN) and the Joint Communications-Electronics Nomenclature System, is a method developed by the U.S. War Department during World War II for assigning an unclassified designator to electronic equipment. In 1957, the JETDS was formalized in MIL-STD-196.
Computer software and commercial unmodified electronics for which the manufacturer maintains design control are not covered.L3 Technologies
L3 Technologies, formerly L-3 Communications Holdings, is an American company that supplies command and control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C3ISR) systems and products, avionics, ocean products, training devices and services, instrumentation, aerospace, and navigation products. Its customers include the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Government Intelligence agencies, NASA, aerospace contractors and commercial telecommunications and wireless customers.
L3 is headquartered in Murray Hill, Manhattan, New York City.Pakistan Aeronautical Complex
The Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) (Urdu: پاکستان ایروناٹیکل کمپلیکس) is a Pakistani aerospace, defence, aviation contractor, and military corporation producing aerial systems for both military and civilian usage, situated in Kamra, Attock District.Founded in 1971 by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), the PAC designs, develops, and build aircraft and avionics systems for the Inter–Services of the country; it also provides its services for civilian aircraft. In addition, the PAC performs local maintenance and works on the aircraft MLU systems of foreign-built military and civilian aircraft. It is solely owned by the Pakistan Air Force as its corporate interests and its corporate appointments are directly made by the Chief of air staff from the Air HQ of the Pakistan Air Force.Mainly focusing on avionics, aviation, and high-tech electronics, the PAC also manufactures military systems for the Pakistan Army and Navy, which are listed as "valued customers". Many of these products are specially suited for the Pakistan Armed Forces needs, while others are also marketed to foreign militaries. While it collaborated with several countries corporate organisations, the PAC often jointly works with the Turkish TAI and the Chinese CATIC. Its aircraft have been exported to Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.Panasonic Avionics Corporation
Panasonic Avionics Corporation (PAC) designs, engineers, manufactures, sells and installs customized in-flight entertainment and communications solutions to airlines worldwide. Panasonic Avionics Corporation is a subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation. Panasonic Avionics Corporation is headquartered in Lake Forest, California and has major business functions in Bothell, WA. Panasonic Avionics Corporation traces its roots to Matsushita Avionics Systems Corporation, founded in 1979.Pentastar Aviation
Pentastar Aviation is an American aviation services company based in Waterford, Oakland County, Michigan. It provides domestic and international private charter flights, avionics, maintenance services, in-flight catering and FBO services. Originally a subsidiary of the Chrysler Corporation, the company was sold in 2001 to Ford family member Edsel B. Ford II.Selex ES
Selex ES was a subsidiary of Finmeccanica S.p.A., active in the electronics and information technology business, based in Italy and the UK, and formed in January 2013, following Finmeccanica's decision to combine its existing SELEX Elsag and SELEX Sistemi Integrati businesses into SELEX Galileo, the immediate predecessor of Selex ES. From 1 January 2016, the activities of Selex ES merged into Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s Electronics, Defence and Security Systems Sector becoming Leonardo S.p.A..Selex ES’s activities had been organised in three Divisions within the sector: Airborne & Space Systems, Land and Naval Defence Electronics and Security and Information Systems.Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory
The Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL) was a facility at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
It was the only facility in the Space Shuttle Program where actual orbiter hardware and flight software can be integrated and tested in a simulated flight environment. It supported the entire Space Shuttle program to perform integrated verification tests. It also contained Firing Room Launch Equipment identical to that used at KSC. Thus complete ground verifications as well as countdown and abort operations could be tested and simulated.
The testing process is extensive and rigorous; the software on the Shuttle is often considered to be among the most bug-free of operational systems.
The laboratory contains a complete avionics mock-up of a Shuttle, designated OV-095. While only a skeleton of an orbiter, the electronics are identical in position and type to those used on the Shuttle; it is a sufficiently faithful replica that crews sometimes prefer to use it to train on, rather than the training simulators.
NASA personnel who have been assigned to SAIL testing include Charlie Bolden (former NASA Administrator), Michael Coats (former Director at JSC NASA), Brewster Shaw (Boeing Vice President of Space Exploration Division) and Al Crews (selected as an astronaut for the X-20 Dyna-Soar).
The first SAIL commander was James E. Westom of Rockwell International, retired Major USAF. He flew the Approach and Landing phase in SAIL before Space Shuttle Enterprise was launched off the top of the NASA C-747 airplane to prove it could fly on its own in the atmosphere.
The SAIL facility will be renovated and recreated as a stop on the Space Center Houston Level 9 Tour, a separate add-on to the visitor's center admission in which tourists are given entrance to buildings normally off limits to visitors.Sukhoi Su-57
The Sukhoi Su-57 (Russian: Сухой Су-57) is the designation for a stealth, single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-generation jet fighter being developed for air superiority and attack operations. The aircraft is the product of the PAK FA (Russian: ПАК ФА, short for: Перспективный авиационный комплекс фронтовой авиации, translit. Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii, lit. ''prospective aeronautical complex of front-line air forces''), a fifth-generation fighter programme of the Russian Air Force. Sukhoi's internal name for the aircraft is T-50. The Su-57 is planned to be the first aircraft in Russian military service to use stealth technology.
The fighter is designed to have supercruise, supermaneuverability, stealth, and advanced avionics to overcome the prior generation fighter aircraft as well as ground and naval defences. The Su-57 is intended to succeed the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian Air Force.The prototypes and initial production batch are to be delivered with a highly upgraded variant of the Lyulka AL-31 engine used by the Su-27 family as an interim powerplant while an advanced clean-sheet design engine, the Saturn izdeliye 30, is currently under development. The aircraft is expected to have a service life of up to 35 years. Its first flight took place on 29 January 2010.Transponder (aeronautics)
A transponder (short for transmitter-responder and sometimes abbreviated to XPDR, XPNDR, TPDR or TP) is an electronic device that produces a response when it receives a radio-frequency interrogation. Aircraft have transponders to assist in identifying them on air traffic control radar. Collision avoidance systems have been developed to use transponder transmissions as a means of detecting aircraft at risk of colliding with each other.Air traffic control units use the term "squawk" when they are assigning an aircraft a transponder code, e.g., "Squawk 7421". Squawk thus can be said to mean "select transponder code" or "squawking xxxx" to mean "I have selected transponder code xxxx".The transponder receives interrogation from the Secondary Surveillance Radar on 1030 MHz and replies on 1090 MHz.