Embedded Avionics, Military

New Test Programs and Increasing Virtual Avionics Interoperability

By Juliet Van Wagenen | September 20, 2016
Send Feedback

Photo: Vector

[Avionics Today 09-20-2016] German software developer Vector, a databus test system supplier that works with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), is looking to straddle the divide between new and old test systems. The company works with Airbus providing its Controller Area Network (CAN) bus data logger for the cabin test activities on their A350 XWB test aircraft. Avionics Magazine caught up with Arne Brehmer, aerospace manager at Vector, to speak about the company’s new work with Airbus and industry activity to develop standards around increased interoperability of virtual avionics components.

Avionics: What test systems are you providing for the upgrade programs for the Airbus single-aisle and long-range programs?

Brehmer: For these programs we mainly provide test systems for the cabin systems, which will be updated and upgraded with new features. Airbus is looking to do more test automation procedures. It is really difficult to define a test automation procedure because some of the tests are only done once or twice. The effort to write all the test automation requirements and procedures is huge, so we have to ensure it is worth it to enable test automation, or if we should just do it manually.

Moreover, there are about five to 10 years between some test systems, so some older ones needed to be substituted. For that reason we have introduced some new ones and there are some good chances to introduce some more automated test procedures.

Avionics: What new systems integrators are you working with to enable databus testing on aircraft programs?

Brehmer: We provided a Hardware-In-the-Loop (HIL) test system to U.K. company Hybrid Air Vehicle (HAV) for their Airlander Program, which aims to combine lighter-than-air technology with the best of airplanes and helicopters to bring new capabilities to aircraft. For the development of the new architecture of the flight control systems Hybrid needed a reliable development and test tool, that give each engineer the opportunity to develop his own task and furthermore to integrate it into the complete systems. The challenge was to find a tool that is capable to perform very specific detailed tasks to develop several components but also gives the opportunity to test the whole integrated system.

For this, the entire network communication was simulated with Controller Area Network (CAN) software, CANoe, the tool for development, test and analysis of entire Electronic Control Unit (ECU) networks over IP. For the testing of the flight control network, several panels were generated to stimulate single Line Replaceable Units (LRUs) of the network and to monitor the reaction. The entire network communication was simulated. The certification of the primary power distribution controller requires the verification of several hundred test cases. Here CANoe, vTESTstudio and the VT System were used for automated testing of the given test cases to reach 100 percent test cases coverage. Finally the simulated flight control network was used to test the flight test equipment before it was installed into the Airlander.

For the HAV, we’ve also added a new feature to our CANoe software vTeststudio, which looks to provide comprehensive software tool for development, test and analysis of ECU networks. We added the test sequence editor, a graphical editor, to facilitate the generation of test sequences and procedures. It is even possible to automatically generate test sequences based on the given requirements that are imported from another requirement management tool.

Avionics: What do you see on the horizon for aviation and avionics databus testing and how are you looking to address coming demand?

Brehmer: The complexity of avionics architectures will increase due to the movement from Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) to more distributed modular avionics and the increase of pilot assistance systems, such as Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) and semi-autonomous taxiing systems, which can be seen with our work with TaxiBot. We also provided HIL systems to Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for their TaxiBot program, a towbar-less 800-hp strong hybrid-electric aircraft tractor, controlled by the pilot and intended for towing aircraft between the gate and the runway with the aircraft's engines turned-off.

The need and challenge for more simulated testing of components and subsystems will increase and the challenge to define and conduct reasonable test automation will increase as well.

Furthermore, the system integrators and airframers are requesting a standard for the integration of virtual avionics components that enable the development of plug-and-play virtual test benches.

Avionics: How are you looking to address the need for increased interoperability of virtual avionics components?

Brehmer: For this we are involved in the European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) Working Group 97, which looks to address the interoperability of virtual avionics components. According to the test task, air framers and integrators are looking to use the best-in-class test equipment and connect it with other best-in-class test equipment for other test tasks.

Airbus, for example, wanted to use the test equipment from a variety of test suppliers. While each test supplier has its “favorite” knowledge for a particular test, with this initiative, they want to connect the different systems so that a test system from Vector, for example, can connect with a competitor.

They started to develop a standard that will enable all these different test systems to communicate with each other. With that, there is an opportunity to test the different avionics components. Another use case is that it is easier to exchange or substitute old test equipment or equipment from suppliers that are not performing well.

We are working in Research and Development (R&D) programs together with airframers, integrators and test system suppliers to support the evaluation and definition of such a standard. It helps that we already support these kinds of standards in the automotive industry. The Association for Standardization of Automation and Measuring Systems (ASAM) defines the standards, and the ASAM HIL: API for ECU Testing via HIL standard enables increased interoperability of virtual components for the automotive industry.

Avionics: How would new standards for interoperability of avionics components change the databus testing landscape for suppliers?

Brehmer: These coming standards for increased interoperability must be wide, accepted standards, so that we can provide this type of equipment across the industry.

In the automotive industry, OEMs have a great need for standards such as these in order to comply with, because there are a lot of activities happening at once with a lot of quickly evolving automotive programs. In the aviation sphere, however, with each aircraft program, the aircraft and the equipment is totally new. They use new test systems, new test methods, equipment, etc. It’s quite difficult to support these new programs because it could be that you need one type of test equipment but then have no other use case for this particular system. But once several airframers and tier-one suppliers accept this kind of interoperability standard, you have more of a chance to provide OEMS and manufacturers with more standardized test equipment so they can perhaps use these systems again or in other contexts.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox