June 18, 2024

Wireless Avionics and Ethernet 1553

If you ever get the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of a jet, be it fighter or commercial, you will be amazed at the plethora of instruments and electronic devices. The general term for these devices are aviation electronics, or avionics for short, and describes all of the navigation, communications, and aircraft management systems that help pilots fly safely in restrictive airspaces. They can be as complex as a searchlight on a police helicopter to the systems in place to warn of an airborne attack. In this article, you will learn all about wireless avionics and the Ethernet 1553 protocol that allows it all to work.

Modern avionics got their start during the Second World War. For example, the autopilot systems found in nearly every airplane in the sky today were originally invented to help bomber jets fly steady so that they would be able to hit precise targets from extremely high altitudes. Not only do modern aircraft use autopilot systems, but also fly by wire systems, radar, weather systems, navigation devices, and an array of elaborate methods for controlling the various mechanisms on the craft. Just to illustrate the level of sophistication and complexity of avionics devices, the timeline to wire the cockpit of a Boeing 747 is one whole year.

Avionics make up a huge portion of an aircraft’s cost. Fighter jets like the F-15E give up nearly twenty percent of their budget on avionics. For a craft like a helicopter, that percentage goes up to fifty percent. The cost of avionics has risen steadily over the past few decades, and will likely continue to rise. This is mainly due to the growing civilian flight market. As more and more people turn to flying as their primary transportation, airspaces get more and more crowded, requiring more sophistication in the avionics used to control and safely fly a plane.

All of the avionics systems must be interconnected so that data can be captured from sensors and delivered to other components and systems to keep the aircraft stable in even the most turbulent conditions. Typically, this is accomplished using an avionics databus protocol. The type of protocol used depends on the application for which it is used. For instance, ARINC 708 controls weather radar for commercial planes, whereas Time Triggered Ethernet is the network used on the NASA Orion Spacecraft.

Usually an Ethernet converter will be used to provide networks for an aircraft. These are designed to be very small, rugged, and to use as little power as possible to withstand the conditions and often tight quarters of an aircraft’s cockpit. These devices can then be programmed to create a secure and reliable Local Area Network for the aircraft.

After reading this article, hopefully you have gained a new appreciation for all of the electronic systems that keep you safe and secure in the sky whenever you take a flight. The avionics industry will only become more complex as military and civilian needs change. The Ethernet 1553 protocol is one such piece of avionics technology that performs critical operations that keeps pilots and passengers safe.