SOSA Consortium’s C4ISR Demonstrator System Shows Value of Open-Source Tech in Mil/Aero Apps

October 15, 2019 Alix Paultre

One of the more promising trends in the electronic industry is the growth of open-source development groups. Such efforts are done by groups by definition, as collaboration and exchange of ideas can only occur between entities. These groups and their efforts have changed the face of modern engineering. Focusing more minds on a problem or application space can result in the creation of more and better potential solutions.

Collaboration is not a new thing; companies have worked together since two artisans set up shop next to one another. What is different this time is that these collaborative efforts are grounded in community-oriented technology-based initiatives. Some of the first groups were based in the maker movement, like the Arduino community, and now there are open-source groups working at the highest levels of the electronics marketplace.

There are active and buoyant special-interest groups like the Things Network for the LoRaWAN Cloud (Internet of Things (IoT)) community, or the Arduino and other tiny computer groups. However, this evolved user/creator community paradigm has been slow to expand into some more conservative engineering spaces, like automotive, medical and military.

Actually, these marketplaces have had some level of collaborative effort due to common development trends and regulatory compliance activity, but nothing like the kind of active open environment that exists in other spaces. The military community is specifically reluctant to adopt more open development methods due to the secretive nature of military capability disclosure. Yet there are areas in core platform development that can benefit from an open-source approach.

SOSA Consortium

There are new groups forming to develop open-source solutions to address military applications, however. One such team involves Pentek, Herrick Technology Laboratories and Kontron, who have created Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) Technical Standard-compliant products used in a 3U VPX demonstrator system, designed to illustrate the capabilities of open systems architectures. Well-suited for electronic warfare (EW), SIGINT, radar and communications applications, the flight-qualified chassis is a complete functional demonstration system.

Taking the Kontron VX305C-40G SOSA-aligned SBC for U.S. defense applications, Herrick integrated it with a Model 71813 XMC board from Pentek for customizable I/O signal status and control, for their SOSA C4ISR demonstrator system for the U.S. Army. The C4ISR demonstrator system, in an HTLv-C-19 chassis, with 16 payload slots and three power supply slots, includes two slots with Kontron VX305C-40G SBC with 12-core Intel Xeon D processors and Pentek Model 71813 digital I/O XMC modules with Xilinx Kintex Ultrascale FPGAs.

Looking Forward

Developing advanced technologies for military and aerospace applications is by definition a life-critical engineering challenge. Leveraging the creative energies of an open-source tech group, dedicated to making solutions that serve the needs of a modern military, will result in systems that can achieve the highest levels of performance.

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