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Sunday, May 1, 2005


New Lab

Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing has announced the opening of an interoperability lab in Dayton, Ohio, to provide a centralized test center and product support. Visit www.cwcembedded.com.

Aviation Training

Swiss Aviation Training, Zurich, Switzerland, has selected the flight management system trainer (FMST) of Aerosim Technologies, Burnsville, Minn., for use in its EMB-170 pilot training program. The FMST also covers autopilot, EFIS and nav procedures. Visit www.aerosim.com.

Suite Delivery

Rockwell Collins has delivered the full avionics suite to EADS-CASA for installation in the CN-235-300M maritime patrol aircraft for the U.S. Coast Guard's multibillion-dollar Deepwater modernization program. Visit www.rockwellcollins.com.

Training Award

Pentastar Aviation has announced that its avionics department will be awarded the Aircraft Electronics Association's Training Excellence Award for the second time. Pentastar also won the award in 2003 during its inaugural run. Visit www.pentastaraviation.com.

DARPA Contract

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to develop electronic components made of gallium nitride. The semiconductor material has been shown to improve the performance of communications and radar systems. Visit www.northropgrumman.com.

Natural UAVs

With a little help from Hollywood, a NASA research team was able to complete flight tests of autonomous unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) around virtual obstacles through the use of principles derived from fish and bird motion studies. In the test conducted over Edwards AFB, Calif., a joint team of technicians and engineers from NASA's Ames Research Center and Dryden Flight Research Center was able to fly two RnR Products APV-3 UAVs over a computer-generated "virtual" forest fire. The UAVs were fitted with Cloud Cap Technology's Piccolo autopilot system, GPS transmitters and a new flight guidance software program.

During the test, flight paths with simulated obstacles were first inspected by a human operator and then manually sent to a central ground station. After being inspected once more, the flight paths were sent from the unmanned ground station to the UAVs' autopilot systems via radio uplink. The UAVs flew along the flight path, stopping at the designated waypoints until one was instructed to orbit over a virtual fire. The other UAV continued along the search grid, adding the remaining waypoints to its flight path in order to complete the mission.

The UAVs showed the ability to fly in close proximity to each other and move around the virtual obstacles in a cooperative manner without the help of the research team or direct contact with each other. In a real-world situation, the human checks and balances would be removed. The UAVs' autopilot program, which contains the flight guidance software, would control the vehicles' movements, while the ground station would process telemetry and send guidance commands.

The new flight guidance software was able to accomplish this through the use of boid algorithms, a mathematical tool often used by moviemakers for computer animation. The algorithms allowed the UAVs to mimic the motions of flocks of birds in flight. They work by breaking a flock's movements into three categories: collision avoidance, in which a bird avoids colliding with nearby birds; velocity matching, in which birds match the speed and direction of their neighbors; and flock centering, in which birds stay close to their neighbors. However, UAVs controlled solely by boid algorithms would simply fly about with no sense of direction. To make them more viable, other flight rules need to be added to the programming. For this test an obstacle avoidance rule and a target-seeking rule (to direct the aircraft to the waypoints) were included.

Though the concept and software are still in the early stages, NASA envisions fleets of UAVs flying cooperatively and assisting firefighters to battle large forest fires. The unmanned aircraft could be used to conduct aerial searches, atmospheric sampling, video mapping and communications relay. The concept also could be used for military applications. Visit www.nasa.gov.

LynuxWorks FCS Win

LynuxWorks will provide its LynxOS-178 operating system for the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program's integrated computer system (ICS). ICS is at the heart of the more than $100-billion program, which aims to link 18 manned and robotic platforms through a shared network. The award from General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems--reportedly valued in the tens of millions of dollars--is huge for the privately held company, which plans to expand its work force by at least 30 percent. "It means a lot of direct revenue," says Inder Singh, LynuxWorks CEO and chairman. Although FCS, the showcase for Army transformation, is headed for major restructuring, the ICS piece is fundamental to "the network centric, distributed aspect of the program," he says.

LynuxWorks claims it defeated competition from real-time operating system suppliers and Linux open-source operating system vendors because LynxOS-178 not only offers hard real-time support and ARINC-style time and space partitioning, but also is compatible with Linux. FCS is developing key middleware in the Linux environment. The contract requires LynuxWorks to add some networking and graphics functions, as well as to provide software support. Visit www.lynuxworks.com

P-3 Orion Contracts

L-3 Communications has awarded BAE Systems a $3-million contract to upgrade the P-3 Orion's autopilot system with a new flight director for the Royal New Zealand Air Force. The upgrade is part of a larger modernization program. Visit www.baesystems.com.

Inmarsat Launch

A Lockheed Martin-built Atlas V rocket has launched an Inmarsat 4-F1 satellite weighing nearly 6 metric tons (13,138 pounds/5,959 kgs) into supersynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite, a Eurostar E3000 built by EADS Astrium, is the first in a new generation designed to support Inmarsat's new Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN). BGAN will bring Internet and intranet content, fax, e-mail, video conferencing, video-on-demand, phone and local area network (LAN) access to nearly anywhere in the world. Another satellite is scheduled for launch this summer, and a third satellite will be held as a ground spare. Visit www.lockheedmartin.com and www.inmarsat.org.

Brilliant Aircraft

Northrop Grumman and Evergreen International Aviation are exploring an airborne network server concept. The companies would put data storage, processors and disseminators on board U.S. Air Force tankers, airlift and transport craft to create airborne network servers, termed "brilliant aircraft." These aircraft would receive information from sensors and other craft on the battlefield and disseminate it to various sources.

Northrop and Evergreen are considering an aircraft demonstration later this year that would entail a Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), a surrogate Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV) and an Evergreen widebody aircraft equipped with communications gear that would enable the data sharing and network services. A "disadvantaged user" on the ground would request tactical information through the network. Battlefield information collected by the Global Hawk or Joint STARS aircraft would be relayed to the server on board the "brilliant" Evergreen aircraft and then relayed to the ground user's personal digital assistant (PDA). Visit www.northropgrumman.com.

Weather Sensing

A NASA team led by researchers from the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., has equipped 64 Saab 340 regional aircraft from Mesaba Airlines with a tropospheric airborne meteorological data report (TAMDAR) sensing instrument. The TAMDAR instrument, which was developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta, and AirDat LLC, Morrisville, N.C., for NASA's Aviation Safety and Security program, can be used to measure humidity, winds, pressure, temperature, icing and turbulence, with the help of location, time and altitude data provided by a built-in GPS receiver.

The instrument will allow the planes to automatically sense and report the measured conditions to a ground data center. The center then will process the weather information and distribute it to forecasters, pilots and pilot briefers. NASA hopes that by equipping smaller, regional aircraft that fly below 25,000 feet, where most weather systems typically reside, it can increase the quality and quantity of available weather information. The test program will run for six months, after which the information will be analyzed. There is no expected timeframe for test results. Visit www.nasa.gov.

Cockpit/Ground Coms

Eurocontrol's Maastricht Upper Area Control Center, the Netherlands, has implemented automatic data link communications between the cockpit and ground. The newly upgraded air traffic control (ATC) system can send a secondary surveillance radar code change automatically to any controller pilot data link communications (CPDLC)-equipped aircraft. Air traffic controllers monitor and verify the uplinked information in the traditional way and have the option to stop the automatic uplink if needed. This would be necessary in the event of a cross-sector coordination involving two or more aircraft. If the uplink were to proceed, the ATC center previously tracking the aircraft would lose correlation on its screens and thus lose some tracking ability. An override of the automatic code change would be needed until the traffic had passed well beyond the normal uplink area.

The automatic data link system is available to any aircraft currently conducting CPDLC with the center, including those in the Link 2000+ program and other future air navigation system (FANS)-equipped aircraft that previously have flown with the center. Visit www.eurocontrol.int.

Aussie ADS-B

Thales Australia has received site acceptance for 58 automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) ground stations to be delivered to Airservices Australia as part of the nation's upper airspace program. The ground stations, to be delivered later this year and installed by Airservices Australia, are capable of surveillance within a 250-nm range. They were designed to operate in the various climate extremes of the Australian continent. Visit www.thalesatm.com.

Broadband Connectivity

Row 44, Malibu, Calif., has announced an exclusive agreement with Hughes Network Systems to provide broadband connectivity to commercial and business aircraft in North America. Row 44 will provide its connectivity services through Hughes' Direcway broadband satellite platform. Because of the exclusive agreement with Hughes, Row 44 is the only company licensed to use the network in North America. Service testing is scheduled for late this year, and the business jet service is to follow shortly after. Visit www.row44.com.

RVSM Monitoring

Rannoch Corp., Alexandria, Va., says its wide-area multilateration system has shown the accuracy needed to perform air traffic control (ATC) height monitoring unit (HMU) functions for reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM). Tests in 2004 tracked high-altitude aircraft in different flight information regions and showed that Rannoch's system could track aircraft in 3D mode to vertical accuracies better than 30 feet (10 m).

RVSM height monitoring occurs when an aircraft flies over a ground-based HMU. The Rannoch AirScene HMU system comprises a set of ground stations arranged as a central site with four additional receivers arranged in a square. Each site receives secondary radar replies (Modes A, C and S) from the aircraft, allowing its 3D position to be computed. Altimetry system error is calculated and monitored by using meteorological information and Mode C/S height data. Visit www.rannoch.com.

Macedonian Learjet

A special edition Bombardier Learjet 60 delivered to the Macedonian government has become the production standard for all new Learjet 60 aircraft. The business jet includes avionics and interior features that were previously options, including an enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) and a traffic alert collision avoidance system (TCAS II). Visit www.bombardier.com.

MFD-640 on B727

Aircraft Systems & Manufacturing Inc., Georgetown, Texas, has developed a kit for the Boeing B727 featuring Universal Avionics Systems Corp.'s MFD-640 multifunction display. The MFD-640 will replace the B727's existing weather radar display and handle input from weather radars, flight management systems, terrain awareness warning systems (TAWS) and traffic alert collision avoidance systems (TCAS), among others. Visit www.asminc.com.

European Approval

Two Bendix/King multifunction displays, the KMD 250 and KMD 150, received certification under the new European-wide approval process in late March. Parent company Honeywell also received European technical standard order (ETSO) approval for a portable GPS receiver and display for light aircraft. "The new ETSO process has made it easy to certify these systems for use throughout Europe," says a Honeywell official. Visit www.honeywell.com.

LTU Order

Teledyne Controls has announced that the German airline LTU has placed an order for the company's aviation quality database (AQD), an integrated software tool designed to support safety management and quality assurance processes. The AQD will be used for occurrence data collection, incident investigation and corrective action tracking. LTU is one of the first European airlines to have implemented an integrated safety management system (SMS). Visit www.teledyne.com.


Nippon Cargo Airlines has selected two ARINC communications services to enhance its operation: the GLOBALink high frequency data link and the GLOBALink/satellite service. The data link provides real-time reporting of aircraft information, while the satellite service allows for clear voice communications from the aircraft. Visit www.arinc.com.

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