Avionics system engineering is a complex problem that demands an advanced solution

March 1, 2016 OpenSystems Media

Ongoing innovations in individual avionics components, including navigational systems, autopilot, radar, collision avoidance, and braking systems, provide pilots with an advanced toolkit that makes commercial flight safer and more controlled than ever. However, the sophistication and sheer number of these components have made system-level avionics engineering an increasingly difficult challenge.

Today’s avionics system engineers have a difficult task—integrating a diverse range of functionally complex components, provided by multiple suppliers, into a system that’s reliable enough to ensure consistent aircraft performance and passenger safety. They also need to understand and meet numerous regulatory operating systems protocols, including ARINC 653, ARINC 429, CAN, and ARINC 664.

Creating a well-integrated, robust systems architecture requires engineers to generate an Interface Control Document (ICD), which is a large spreadsheet that gathers data and inputs from multiple avionics system suppliers and accurately reflects all system components interactions and interdependencies, including hardware and software redundancies, messaging hierarchies, data inputs, and numerous communication switches.

To produce this document, engineers must ensure that all inputs are not only accurate, but consistent with one another. This requires tedious manual checking and rechecking; if a modification is made in one component, it must be verified against hundreds of other inputs to ensure that overall system integrity is maintained. Unfortunately, the advances made in avionics technologies over the years have not matched improvements in the tools used to generate an ICD. Instead, the tools and processes used to architect and integrate avionics systems have remained labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Typically, avionics engineers leverage a widely available software product, such as Microsoft Excel, to map all the system components interactions and produce an ICD. The problem with this approach is that Excel and other commercial solutions aren’t designed to gather data and inputs from multiple suppliers, graphically detail all system hierarchies, interactions, timing, and controls, or automatically update the entire spreadsheet that represents the complex system architecture.

Since system integration is one of the final tasks that must be completed before a new aircraft is launched, avionics engineers are typically under pressure to generate an ICD quickly without sacrificing quality or reliability. This combination of speed and accuracy is simply not possible if engineers continue to rely on commercial software solutions to complete their critical system-level integration work.

Given the technical sophistication of avionics components, the pressure to work quickly and the mission-critical nature of their tasks, a new, more automated, intelligent and customized solution is needed. A custom solution designed to model the various steps of system integration in a step-by-step manner would greatly simplify and accelerate the avionics engineers’ jobs, while ensuring that all relevant protocols have been met. In addition, the ideal modeling tool would completely automate the ICD creation, even automatically reflecting any minor component changes at the system level. This would eliminate hours of manual modifications and minimize the risk of human error.

In today’s fast-paced, demanding world of aerospace engineering, a dedicated avionics system modeling tool could drive significant time and costs out of avionics system integration, leading to faster launch times for new aircraft without sacrificing system performance or reliability. It’s been estimated that, just by automating changes in one component across the entire system architecture, engineering teams could achieve an efficiency improvement as high as 300%. Manual tasks that currently take weeks could be accomplished in days by applying the right software solution.

With the dramatic technology improvements made in every avionics component, system architects should be able to leverage an equally advanced, customized solution that maximizes their contributions. A more intelligent, flexible, and automated solution for mapping the overall avionics system and producing an ICD will signal a new era of speed, accuracy and efficiency, and deliver broad benefits for the entire industry.

Attend a webinar to learn how the new ANSYS SCADE System Avionics Package can help streamline the ICD creation process.

Kara Gremillion is the Senior Product Manager for Systems and Embedded Software Products at ANSYS, which includes responsibility for the ANSYS SCADE and ANSYS Simplorer product lines. She has over 15 years of experience marketing complex software products on an international scale. She holds a B.S. in mass communications and public relations from Boston University.

Kara Gremillion, ANSYS
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