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Thursday, May 15, 2014

GE Aviation Fields New 'Turnkey' UAS Computers

Woodrow Bellamy III 

[Avionics Today May 15, 2014] GE Aviation unveiled a new family of computing platforms designed to provide a common software environment to host a variety of unmanned and manned aircraft mission computing applications at AUVSI 2014. 

GE Aviation's versatile computing platform. Photo, courtesy of GE Aviation.

The goal of the new platform is to reduce the cost of developing software for new aircraft programs. GE claims its new computing platform can host a range of different applications, including vehicle management, mission payload, aerial refueling, navigation and communication management. 
 
"We're building a computer platform that we can sell essentially as COTS [Commercial Off the Shelf] — that is already going to have a safety pedigree built into it. And that's typically not something you get from a typical COTS type of system," said Jay Pruiett, chief engineer of GE Aviation's computing systems division. 
 
"When our customers want to use it as a mission computer or a vehicle computer, for example, really all they need to focus on [is] their software applications. They don't have to worry about developing (or re-developing) the platform software, because we're developing a comprehensive software infrastructure for the computer as well as the tools around it that they can just use. So it’s basically a turnkey solution, its going to be something that they can use in their system and focus on the development of their software," Pruiett added. 
 
In developing the new platform, GE used lessons learned from the vehicle computers and remote interfacing units that it provided for the Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR) X-47B UAS demonstrator. 
 
Additionally, to allow for the integration of future hardware modifications to individual application software, the platform is designed to host Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) conformant applications for future aircraft. Pruiett said that while the FACE standard is still emerging, GE would also be reliant on COTS Operating System (OS) suppliers to provide systems that support the standard. 
 
Dan Stearns, military and civil sales manager of aviation computing systems at GE Aviation, believes that the commercial UAS market will be a big part of the company's future, especially facilitating the integration of new advanced technology into future aircraft. 
 
"The UAVs are a ubiquitous part of our culture right now. It seems to be the hot button topic, and certainly has been for the past several years," said Stearns. "It requires a lot more thought, a lot more integration than it appears at the surface. That's where we can certainly help out with the integration of it, with the thought leadership and a lot of the things that go on with it. Its not just the piecing together of the components. It’s a lot harder than it looks," said Stearns.
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