Business & GA, Commercial, Embedded Avionics

ADS-B Equipage Executive Q&A: Aerospace Optics

By Woodrow Bellamy III  | April 7, 2015
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[Avionics Today 04-07-2015] The approaching 2020 mandate for Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Out avionics equipage under the FAA’s NextGen program will require upgrades to a considerable number of legacy airframes still flying today. One of the biggest cost and functionality related issues with that type of equipage that is common with the transmission of ADS-B broadcasted aircraft positions is the communication between legacy analogue aircraft technology and modern digital aircraft systems. To learn more about how operators can address this issue, Avionics Magazine caught up with Loren Jensen, chief operating officer and president of Aerospace Optics, and Steve Edwards, vice president of product development at Aerospace Optics to discuss the ADS-B equipage benefits of their new NEXSYS ARINC 429 to Discrete Signal Converter.  


Left to Right: Loren Jensen, COO of Aerospace Optics. Steve Edwards, Vice President of Aerospace Optics.

Avionics Magazine: Aerospace Optics is launching its ARINC 429 to discrete converter at the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) annual convention. Could you give us some background on the product’s capabilities?

Loren Jensen: We’re introducing a new second brand that’s been developed in-house. That brand is NEXSYS, and that division is all about avionics and system-to-system interfaces. This signal converter we’re talking about, the ARINC signal converter, is part of the new NEXSYS brand from Aerospace Optics. We view the system-to-system interface arena as important enough and valuable enough to actually grow a new brand from scratch. 

Steve Edwards: With the NEXSYS ARINC 429 discrete converter, the goal is to have a single universal product that could be used in many ARINC 429 applications, of which the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) capability is one. It was designed without any firmware or software to minimize time, cost and validation associated. No DO-254 or DO-278 certification is required. This is a plug-and-play solution and we’ve tested this to the highest-level Electromagnetic Capability (EMC) that would meet or exceed the most stringent applications for the air transport aircraft market, whether its two intervals per meter, we’ve already passed that and run that. A customer can set it for any specific valid label, and each output is provided bit-for-bit to the customer. If someone else is working on an ADS-B development for an airframe, they can get the unit and set the converter to communicate whatever set of data or application they want.

Avionics Magazine: How does this enable ARINC 429 to discrete signal conversions with ADS-B avionics?

Loren Jensen: Asking a transponder OEM or even a multi function display OEM to re-write their software or re-mod their hardware to provide discrete output is extremely expensive — we’re talking possibly over $20,000 and more than several months of modification. Instead, this digital information is available already and so we’re providing a much less expensive way to take that digital signal and provide the mandated warnings with it, without having to go back to the OEM and have them re-program and re-certify software and hardware. Instead of having a Rockwell Collins or Garmin system re-written to provide this capability, this is a cost effective way to take that digital information that is easily available from the system and turn it into a discrete output. 

Steve Edwards: The FAA’s 2020 mandate requires that two warnings be provided. One is transponder failure; the other is ADS-B Out failure, which really indicates a GPS failure. Those two warnings are mandated and not all the legacy aircraft have both of those warnings available as a discrete signal. Where our system comes in on the ADS-B solutions, is that this information is available on many of the transponder outputs on the ARINC 429 bus. This unit hangs on the ARINC 429 bus, listens for the specific data from the transponder and then will activate that failure indication to the end user if necessary. The way this is interfacing with the aircraft is it helps with those legacy systems or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) systems that they now have a way to create an easy interface without having to modify the legacy hardware and software if the data is already available on the data bus. 

Avionics Magazine: Did you look at a variety of aircraft types when developing this signal converter?

Loren Jensen: It is completely platform agnostic. It is designed around the ARINC 429 standard, which has been around for decades and is well recognized across a wide range of platforms. This is not aircraft specific. We realize that this ADS-B mandate is coming up in the U.S., but there are of course operators who fly all over the world with all different aircraft types so we wanted to make sure this would be available to any operator that has a legacy aircraft and wants to continue flying it within the ADS-B environment, while not over-spending in the process. 

Steve Edwards: Absolutely. This is independent of aircraft type, make, model or size. The ARINC 429 bus is a standard specification; therefore as long as the information is there, we can hang it as a listener on that bus and provide the data. 

Avionics Magazine: Have you been in talks with airlines, operators, OEMS or installers about this?

Steve Edwards: Absolutely, we’ve been in discussion with numerous installers and OEMs, we’ve provided units, there are multiple facilities we’re working with that are working on Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) for the ADS-B and other applications using this product. It is already there, people are recognizing it, seeing the advantage of it, they’re saying it is exactly what they need and it is going forward very quickly. We’re expecting to see a number of announcements about it at AEA this year from the OEMs and the installers, where this product is being used specifically in the ADS-B applications. 

Avionics Magazine: Would aircraft need additional equipment in order to facilitate this functionality, the communication with the ADS-B component, outside of the components of the ADS-B system and the SR429 itself?

Loren Jensen: We put all those things relative to additional equipment for ADS-B as under the umbrella of post-processing. So the fact that you’ve turned it into a discrete signal, that can be step one, then you may need to combine that information with something else step one might be transferring it from ADS-B to a discrete signal. Then if there’s additional post processing work that needs to be done on that information we can provide the logic module that can deliver that post-processing capability.

Steve Edwards: Yes. You have to have new indicators in the aircraft, our Vivisun indicators are being put in there, also there’s additional interface Logic components required, based on the aircraft compatibility and the systems being installed. Since our NEXSYS line is an interface logic line, we’re able to, we’ve got those components already available that will go inside the indicator or in a NEXSYS logic module that will provide any signal conversion and adaption that needs to be done for those systems. For example, the transponder output needs to go through a solid-state relay. We already have those types of things available, what we’re also providing is the building blocks with the solid-state relays, the electronic latching, the boolean logic that will automatically interface to the aircraft. 

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