A Review of Aeronautical Electronics and its Parallelism

A Review of Aeronautical Electronics and its Parallelism
A Review of Aeronautical Electronics and its
Parallelism with Automotive Electronics
J. Muñoz-Castañer, R. Asorey-Cacheda, F.J. Gil-Castiñeira, F.J. González-Castaño, P. S. Rodrı́guez-Hernández
Abstract—Aeronautical electronic and communications technologies have evolved from the analog domain to the digital
domain and, nowadays, planes are complex structures serviced by
many standalone systems that communicate through data buses.
Many of these systems have found applicability in other sectors.
This paper reviews the most recent technologies in modern
aircraft and identifies their application in the automotive sector.
It also identifies automotive electronics applied in planes.
Index Terms—Aeronautical electronics, automotive electronics,
embedded systems.
HIS paper reviews the current state of the art of electronic systems in the aeronautic sector and their possible
application in the automotive sector, and vice versa. The
aeronautic sector has a long tradition in the development
of advanced electronic systems, pioneering the replacement
of mechanics by electronics to improve performance and
achieve new functionality [1]. The number of systems that
can be found in a latest-generation passenger plane is really
impressive. These systems include components, hardware and
software architectures, development tools, applications, and so
Although there exists literature about different technological
aspects of the aeroespace and automotive industries [1]–[6], to
the best of our knowledge there is a lack of analyses on the
links between these two industries in the area of electronics.
This paper aims to identify the links that have led, or may
lead, to cross-technology transfer.
It is obvious that technology transfer has typically taken
place from the aeronautical industry to the automotive industry
[7], [8]. However, there are exceptions to this rule and, in some
cases, some technology advancements appeared first in automobiles and, after their success, were transferred to aircrafts
[9]–[11]. It is therefore likely that future advancements will
appear almost at the same time in both industries.
This document is organized as follows: In section II, we
review the electronic systems that are used in aeronautics and
their relationship with the automotive sector when applicable.
In section III we identify and describe the main in-vehicle
communication standards in both sectors. Section IV provides
perspective on the evolution of technology transfer. Section V
concludes the paper.
J. Muñoz-Castañer, R. Asorey-Cacheda, F.J. González-Castaño, P. S.
Rodrı́guez-Hernández and F.J. Gil-Castiñeira are with the Departamento
de Enxeñarı́a Telemática, Universidade de Vigo, ETSE Telecomunicación, Campus, 36310 Vigo, Spain, tel.: (+34) 986 814 081, fax:
(+34) 986 812 116, email: [email protected]; [email protected];
[email protected];[email protected]; [email protected]
In addition to companies involved in implementations of a
particular system, there are many companies engaged in virtually the entire range of embedded systems in a plane. In the
automotive industry for example, sometimes the products are
manufactured by small companies and sold under the brands
of a larger enterprise. The major players are BAE Systems
[12], Curtis-Wright [13], EADS [14], Goodrich Corporation
[15], Honeywell [16], ITT [17], L-3 Communications [18],
Lockheed Martin [19], Northrop Grumman [20], Raytheon
[21], Rockwell Collins [22], Thales Group [23], and United
Technologies Corporation [24].
A. Head-Up Displays (HUD)
In fighter planes, HUDs help the pilot to mantain his
concentration by providing relevant flight information in his
field of vision. When the device is mounted on a helmet, it is
called an HMD or Head-Mounted Display.
An HUD is a transparent display that is installed between
the pilot and the canopy on which information is projected
as in a television prompter. The information displayed may
be static, such as speed and altitude, or dynamic, such as the
inclination of the horizon, the direction of the north or the
position of a target.
Several problems had to be overcome for this system to
work, such as avoiding object reflections on the display or
calibrating the projected image so that the pilot can focus on
an image outside the aircraft and the displayed information
simultaneously. It is also important that information is the
same under different light conditions. Finally, it is necessary to
take into account the parallax error by varying the observer’s
position with respect to the HUD and the outside.
It is possible to find examples of these systems on the the
websites of Esterline CMC Electronics [25] and Elbit Systems
This concept has not been extensively exploited in the
automotive world. HUDs are relatively bulky devices due to
the projector characteristics, and may be uncomfortable for
a car driver. Among the advances in the automotive world
regarding lightweight transparent screens we can mention
those of Magneti Marelli [27], as well as the projection on
the windshield by Continental [28] or in the Citroën C6 [29].
The projector can also be linked to a GPS, as in the case of
Asus R710 [30].
B. Line-Replaceable Unit (LRU) and Integrated Modular
Avionics (IMA)
Current on-board plane electronics consist of a set of
sensors/actuators and several computing units called LineReplaceable Units (LRU) [31]. These units are black boxes
that can be easily removed and replaced in case of failure.
An LRU is composed of several Line-Replaceable Modules (LRM), which are commonly commercial off-the-shelf
(COTS) or application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) with
computing capabilities.
Latest-generation commercial aircraft such as the Boeing
B-777 [32] or the Airbus A380 [33] and combat aircraft
follow a different approach called Integrated Modular Avionics
(IMA) [34]. The goal is to reduce the number of LRUs and
wiring in the plane by integrating multiple functions in the
same hardware. The B-777 AIMS system, for example, uses
two modules to perform all the data acquisition, computation
and management of the Electronic Flight Instrument System
In the automotive industry, Electronic Control Units (ECU)
[35] are a close equivalent to LRUs. These units are used to
manage systems such as airbags, doors and engines. The first
ECUs were introduced by General Motors in 1981. However,
despite obvious similarities between ECUs and LRUs, so far
there has not been an integration process such as that that
led from LRUs to IMAs. For this reason, modern automobiles
may have up to 80 ECUs, so it is possible that other systems
with a higher level of integration will appear in the future.
C. Control Panel
The control panels in military or commercial aircrafts are
very similar, technologically speaking, due to the tendency to
use COTS systems. The control panel of an airplane, like that
of a land vehicle, presents information on its status and allows
the pilot to interact with several flight parameters.
A new trend in the aviation sector is to replace analog
monitoring devices other than backup devices with digital
LCD screens. Examples of companies that are engaged in this
sector are Airbus [36], Aspen Avionics [37], Blue Mountain
Avionics [38], Dynon Avionics [39], Esterline CMC Electronics [40], Garmin [41], Innovative Solutions & Support [42],
J.P. Instruments [43], MGL Avionics [44], Rogerson Kratos
[45], Sandel [46], Universal Avionics [47] and Zodiac [48].
ARINC has pushed for the production of standards for
connecting control planes to airplane systems through the
Cockpit Display Systems (CDS) Subcommittee [49]. There
also are efforts to standardize the graphical interface software
embodied in ARINC Specification 661 [50]. An example of
integrated development environment (IDE) that supports this
standard is PRESAGIS VAPS XT [51].
Integrating touch screens in aircraft control planes is challenging because it is not possible to provide rapid feedback to
the user, who cannot concentrate on the screen. A possible solution is the use of haptic displays. These screens have piezoelectric devices that can vibrate, providing tactile feedback to
the user, such as the position of a button or acknowledging that
the button is pressed [52]. Haptic technology is also present in
the automotive sector [53], [54] (for example in BMW Series
6 and 7), where it is used for the same purposes as in aircraft.
D. Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS), Enhanced Flight Vision
Systems (EFVS) and Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS)
These systems offer an enhanced representation of reality at
night or in foggy weather using infrared or thermal cameras
and machine vision algorithms. The websites of Gulfstream
[55] and Kollsman [56] provide an illustration of these systems.
Such systems could be useful to the automotive sector to
improve driver safety. Magneti Marelli is already conducting investigations in the field of night vision [57] and the
recognition of traffic signals [58]. The Mercedes Benz Sclass W221 and the BMW 7 also have night vision systems
[59]. In the case of Mercedes, the display is placed in the
speedometer, whereas in the BMW it is placed in the center
of the dashboard. Thus, in both cases the driver must look
away from the windshield.
Another environment enhancement system is SVS, which
represents a three-dimensional view of the plane’s surrounding. It is complemented with a positioning system to place
the aircraft on the map. It allows the pilot to check visual
references and it can also detect if the aircraft is in danger of
collision. More information is available at the official websites
of Chelton Flight Systems [60], Garmin [61], Honeywell [62]
and MetaVR [63]. This concept could eventually be applied
to a car if alternative graphical representations of reality were
available. For example, Blusens has marketed a GPS navigator
[64] that uses city pictures instead of 2D maps.
E. Data Acquisition Systems, Software Data Loader
A plane must collect information from many sensors on
status and navigation data, often for further treatment. There
are data collection systems based on magnetic vibration-proof
hard drives or solid-state hard drives. These systems have
common interfaces such as Ethernet, RS-232, MIL-1553B,
ARINC-429, audio, video, analog/digital converters, etc.
The Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) Subcommittee [65] and the Flight Recorder Electronic Documentation
(FRED) Subcommittee [66] of ARINC seek to define standards
for data collection. It is possible to find references on these
systems in the pages of companies such as Adtron [67],
Ametek [68], Ampex Data Systems [69], Ampol [70], Meggit
Avionics [71], Seagate [72], Signatec [73], Silicon Systems
[74], STEC [75], Vanguard [76] and Z Microsystems [77].
Regarding data acquisition systems in the automotive sector,
possible applications are diverse. In public transport there are
compulsory data loggers to be cited as legal evidence in case
of accident. For private vehicles, there are data collection
applications such as Fiat ecodrive [84], which collects data
in a USB stick for a computer application to advise on how
to improve driving abilities.
The Software Data Loader (SDL) system is responsible
for receiving software and installing it in aircraft equioment.
The Software Data Loader (SDL) Subcommittee [78], the
Electronic Distribution of Software (EDS) Working Group
[79] and the Field Loadable Software (FLS) Working Group
[80] are creating standards to facilitate interoperability of
equipment from different manufacturers. For example, the
ARINC-826 specification supports software load through a
CAN bus. The ARINC-615 specification defines a portable
device that contains the new software, which is taken onboard
to load updates. This technology is described in the pages of
Avionics Companies [81], Demo Systems [82] and Teledine
Controls [83].
Despite the fact that cars are short-lived goods compared to
aircraft, given the increasing importance of electronic equipment as a major source of car value, some sort of SDL system
to fix bugs may be advantageous. In some market segments
users would appreciate the possibility of tuning performance
by downloading signed firmware. Of course, this feature
should be used carefully and it may require the development
of new technologies that would not allow inexperienced users
to change critical parameters.
F. In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) and Multimedia Systems
These systems can be local or provide connectivity with the
outside world. There is a forum of companies related to IFE
called the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA)
[85] that provides some degree of standardization in this field.
Multimedia systems allow passengers to enjoy multimedia
content in their seats. IFE systems include:
Movie players, television, music, audio books or electronic books provided by the carrier.
Synchronization of user devices with the systems to play
user content.
Information on flight status: Position on a map, arrival
time calculation, video playback of external cameras on
the airplane, etc.
Request for meals/drinks and card payment in the seat.
Service messaging between users in the cabin.
Web surfing in a cache if there is no connectivity.
Some users of IFE systems are Emirates Airlines [96],
Virgin America [97] and Singapore Airlines (KrisWorld) [91].
For example, Singapore Airlines employs the Panasonic eX2
system, which consists of a content server and seat displays
associated with embedded PCs with Linux-based operating
systems. These PCs also have a small QWERTY keyboard
and USB connectors to access external disks, and they run
office applications [92].
Major IFE manufacturers are Thales IFE systems [88],
Panasonic [89] and Rockwell Collins [90], [93], [94]. Other
manufacturers are Airvod [98], AlsterAero [99], Avionics
Innovations [100], Digecor [101], Flight Display Systems
[102], Groupe Latecoere [103], InFlight Entertainment Products [104], The IMS Company [105], Intheairnet [106], Lefeel
[107], PGA ELECTRONIC [108], Skygem [109], and Videon
Central [110].
As a further enhancement, these systems may help the
airline by collecting data about customer preferences to improve service progressively. Other improvements are related
to weight, power savings and interference minimization. For
instance, Lumexis [95] uses optical fiber to transport flows.
The most widespread multimedia system for cars consist
of DVD players connected to back-seat screens. Like IFE
systems, some multimedia solutions for coaches rely on a
central server, which serves multimedia content to luggage
rack screens [87]. High-end cars like the BMW 7 Series
[86] employ external cameras to assist driving in narrow
areas (as trucks do), which may evolve for entertainment
purposes. In any case, multimedia system manufacturers for
the automotive and aeronautical sectors employ the same
COTS-based solutions to save costs.
G. Electronic Flight Management
The Electronic Flight Management system provides flight
planning support and navigation capabilities, such as path
prediction and guidance. Flight planning consists of establishing the route of an aircraft and modifying it if necessary.
It is based on the configuration of waypoints. Path prediction calculates the position of the aircraft in the flight plan
according to weather conditions and aircraft performance.
The system maintains a database of weather conditions and
characteristics of aircraft models. From the flight plan and the
path predictions it is possible to calculate the duration of a
trip and optimize fuel consumption. These plans can guide
the pilot along an optimized route.
The EFM system typically consists of two functional units
called the computing unit and the display control unit. The
computing unit may be a separate unit that provides computing
capability and interfaces with other systems, or it may be
embedded in an IMA system. The display control unit provides
the human-to-machine (HMI) interface. Beacon sensors or
intertial reference systems allow to calculate the height and the
velocity vector, so the plane can be located on a geographical
point even if GPS contact is lost. Relative position error will
depend on the tolerance of the sensors and increase with time,
but the precision is acceptable in critical situations.
Therefore, this system requires the participation of diverse
location sensors and engine-monitoring devices to perform its
There are references to these systems in the websites
of Esterline [111], GE Aviation [112], Honeywell [113],
Rockwell Collins [114], Universal Avionics [115] and Flight
Management Systems [116].
In the automotive sector, GPS navigators play some roles
of EFM systems. Borrowing key ideas from the aeronautical
sector, some navigators, such as the Tom Tom Go 920 [117],
keep working in areas without GPS coverage by using motion
sensors to calculate the position of the car temporarily.
H. Electronic Flight Bag (EFB)
The EFB is a portable device that contains useful information such as manuals or maps which is compulsory to
take on board. With EFBs, information can be updated easily
and synchronized with other aircraft systems such as EFM to
coordinate routes.
Despite their portability, these devices depend on the type of
aircraft. For this reason, ARINC is standardizing the interface
between the EFB and different aircraft systems [118].
Some companies that manufacture EFBs are DAC International [119], EFlyBook [120], Esterline CMC Electronics
[121], Gulfstream [122], NavAero [123], Teledine Controls
[124] and Honeywell [125].
Regarding the automotive sector, it would be interesting
to let drivers design routes on home PCs and download
them to mobile devices such as cell phones to be uploaded
to embedded GPS navigators in the car. This concept was
described in [126].
I. Vehicle Health-Monitoring System (VHM)
The basic purpose of this system is to determine whether the
operational state of a system is as expected. Once determined,
this knowledge is used to mitigate the impact of detected
failures or, at least, to report the event. The system can be ordered to reconfigure itself to isolate faulty elements. Although
aircraft subsystems can separately implement redundancy or
fail safe coding techniques, the VHM can, in some way,
coordinate them.
The first commercial aircrafts carried mechanical and electrical systems. Health-monitoring tests consisted of pressing
a button to close a circuit which, in turn, lit a bulb on the
dashboard. If the bulb did not light up, it revealed a problem.
With the advent of digital systems in the early 80s, these
tests were replaced by panels dedicated to LRUs where it was
possible to check their status. With the proliferation of LRUs,
learning the procedures to test all systems was overwhelming.
To solve this problem, the ARINC-604 document Guidance
for Design and Use of Built-In Test Equipment [127] was
issued in 1985 to standardize and centralize LRU tests. The
subsequent ARINC-624 document Design and Guidance for
Onboard Maintenance System [128] defines a device called
a Central Maintenance Computer (CMC) or Onboard Maintenance System (OMS) that performs verifications and traces
the origins of the failures. This centralized system facilitates
the diagnosis of IMA-based systems.
The Open Systems Architecture for Condition-Based Maintenance standard (OSA-CBM) [129] was initially developed
for US Navy ships and later adopted in ground and aerial
vehicles. It defines a layered architecture. The lowest layer
consists of sensors and data flows to the highest layers, where
decisions are made. This architecture allows interoperability
among device makers at different levels.
Both ARINC-624 and OSA-CBM define the Integrated
VHM (IVHM) architecture [130]. An example of a representative IVHM system is the Aircraft Maintenance Diagnostic System (ADMS) from Honeywell [131]. This system is
integrated into the Honeywell Primus Epic system, an IMA
for airplanes and helicopters that entered service in 2003.
ADMS supports over 200 vehicle subsystems, providing a
single access point for diagnosis with a graphical interface.
ADMS can also perform diagnostics alone, indicating the root
of the problem.
Both ADMS and another IVHM system, the Crew Information System of the B-787 [132]), can autonomously submit
aircraft data down to earth through a communications link, to
be analyzed by more powerful diagnostic systems based on
artificial intelligence.
In the automotive sector, VHMs are widely used in professional races such as Formula 1 in a similar way to in
the aeronautical industry. Another automotive approach to
VHMs are On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) systems, which were
introduced in the early 80s and are present in practically
all modern commercial automobiles [133], [134]. However,
OBD interfaces are simpler than VHMs as they provide local
information only. However, there are proposals to use them
for remote monitoring of private [135] or commercial vehicles
J. Fly-By-Wire
X-By-Wire (XBW) systems, of which Fly-By-Wire is a
particular case, replace the mechanical transmission between
control systems and steering systems. This leads to weight
reduction and assisted driver control, and it even allows
extremely maneuverable planes to be flyable.
The first systems of this kind were implemented in the
late 70s and early 80s. They transmitted signals that were
proportional to the force exercised by the pilot at the controls.
They were also responsible for providing feedback to the pilot
in the form of pressure on the controls.
Latest-generation planes, such as the Boeing B-777 [32]
or the Airbus 3X0 [137]–[139], have more advanced systems
based on digital technology. We will focus on these systems
in the rest of this section.
The Fly-By-Wire architecture, or FBW, consists of a series
of electromechanical actuators that operate the moving parts
of the aircraft, a set of sensors that transmit information on
their state and position and numerous devices with computing
capabilities that are responsible for converting the signals from
the pilot into orders for the actuators and communicating with
other aircraft systems such as EFM. Usually the system is
supported by an ARINC-629 bus or by an ARINC-429 bus
for point-to-point connections.
One of the most important requisites in an FBW system
is fault tolerance. The main approach is making critical
components redundant and placing them in separate parts of
the airplane. To decide which of the replicated signals to use,
it is possible to utilize a voting system. The fact that one
order is beyond a threshold established for the majority of
the devices is a clear sign of dysfunction. Another possible
approach is to use one device as a master and another as
a monitor. These would be functionally identical but have
different hardware and software architecture, so a failure of
either or poor implementation would not result in a complete
system collapse.
The automobile industry has spent years pursuing technology similar to XBW technology but called Drive-By-Wire.
It decouples driver controls, steering systems and engine
systems, enabling new features such as the capability of
assuming driving in situations that may endanger the integrity
of the car (e.g. ABS) or cause passenger discomfort. This
technology could be combined with haptic controls [140]–
[142], for example to alert the driver when the car approaches
Data buses
There exist many different standards. Present in
all planes.
Control panels
Current trend is to
substitute analog panels
by digital ones. Interest
in haptic technology
and SVS
There exist several systems for aircraft navigation and collision warning
HUD displays
Mainly in military aircraft.
& multimedia
Present in modern
business applications
Present in all planes.
Flight Bag
Present in many planes,
but not standardized
Vehicle Health
Present in both commercial and military aircraft since the 80s.
Present in aircraft since
the late 70s.
The automotive industry has developed its
own standards. Some
of these standards have
been adapted to the
aeronautical industry.
Current trend is to use
digital control panels
instead of analog ones.
Haptic technology has
also been introduced, to
a lesser extent.
Marginal interest, given
that cars move in a 2D
There exist some developments, but technical
advancements are still
necessary to achieve
commercial status.
for cars (integrated
architecture), luggage
coaches (client-server
GPS navigators provide
some limitations.
Some existing proposals [126].
proposals [135], [136].
OBDs as enabling
have been developed
for the automotive
sector, specially for
safety (e.g. ABS).
step was a star topology with point-to-point connections between central and edge subsystems. This proved to be cumbersome. The weight of cabling and interface cards compromised
For this reason, there was a trend towards the use of
redundant serial buses (rather than parallel ones). The need
to standardize these buses was soon noticed and, in 1973, the
USAF MIL-STD-1553 standard was issued. In 1975, a second
version, MIL-STD-1553A, was published. In 1978 the third
and current version, MIL-STD-1553B, was launched. It is still
in use, with some changes, in almost all military aircraft. On
the other hand, the United Kingdom created the Def Stan 0018 series of standards, which also covers most military aviation
Commercial aviation representatives collaborated in the
development of MIL-STD-1553, but it eventually proved too
demanding for commercial use. Thus, they developed their
own standard, whose first description is ARINC Specification
419. Due to the need for improvements, ARINC-429 was
launched in 1977. It became a reference, remaining largely
unchanged until 1980. This standard is equivalent to MILSTD-1553 in terms of success, and it has also been applied in
other industrial sectors.
Currently, aeronautical systems require higher bandwidth
than those standards can offer. Consider, for example, the need
to transport multimedia streams, or simply the difference in
computing capabilities between current equipment and that
of the 80s. The first reaction was to introduce new faster
standards, such as new versions of MIL-STD-1553, but the
success of ATM or Gigabit Ethernet led to the evaluation
of COTS technologies for avionics. Of course, consumer
electronics solutions do not meet the stringent requirements
in aeronautical applications, so better alternatives have been
proposed such as AFDX, Avionic Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet, or TTCAN, Time Triggered CAN.
A. Strictly military or commercial aviation bus standards
the speed limit, by hardening the accelerator pedal, or in case
of a wet road, by changing the touch of the steering wheel.
Table I summarizes the aeronautical electronic technologies
in our review and their equivalents in the automotive world.
As can be observed, many of the technologies deployed in
aircrafts have equivalents in the automotive sector but at
different stages of development.
In the 50s and 60s all aircraft electronics were analog
systems. In the 70s, manufacturers started to install digital
computers to assist pilots in some tasks, although most internal
communications were still analog. It was necessary to add A/D
converters so that computers could understand the signals.
Economies of scale allowed the massive entry of digital
components into aircrafts, as happened with cars. However,
subsystem interfaces became increasingly complex. The first
MIL-STD-1553B standards:
– MIL-STD-1553B: The MIL-STD-1553B standard
[144] defines the following architecture elements:
∗ Bus Controller (BC): Bus node designated to
direct the flow of data on the bus. Although there
may be multiple nodes on the bus that can perform
this task, only one is permitted to act as the bus
∗ Remote Terminal (RT): Nodes that are neither
drivers nor bus monitors. They usually correspond
to the hardware that interacts with the bus subsystem to exchange information.
∗ Bus Monitor (BM): Bus node designed to collect
all the information that passes through the bus or
part of it. There may be several bus monitors. The
information collected is used for offline applications or to detect bus failures, which allows the
implementation of countermeasures such as the
activation of an auxiliary bus.
The various bus nodes are interconnected by redundant twisted wire pairs, with impedances at the
ends. This technology allows bus lengths up to 6
meters if the nodes are coupled to the bus through
a transformer, and about 30 centimeters if coupled
directly. The same bus can address up to 31 different
nodes or all of them at once with a broadcast
The following companies implement this protocol:
Excalibur Systems [145], Ballard Technology [146],
Data Bus Products [147], Greenwood Electronic
Components Ltd [148], ITCN [149] National Hybrid,
Incorporated [150], North Hills Signal Processing
[151] and Phoenix Logistics [152].
Extended MIL-STD-1553: In the early 90s, the US
DoD had to change the protocol buses in combat
planes. While MIL-STD-1553B was sufficient to
handle the weapon system with its 1 Mbps speed,
it could not support radar and computer display
signals, which require from 20 Mbps to 200 Mbps.
Since the cost of replacing the wiring of operational
aircraft was prohibitive, the ideal solution was to
reuse existing wiring.
One of the earliest attempts was called NG1553,
Next Generation 1553. This proposal was intended to
increase the clock speed of the hardware to achieve
a fivefold bit rate. NG1553 was used in modest
applications and it was not a long-term solution.
The Canadian company Edgewater Computer Systems [153] presented at the beginning of 2000 the Extended 1553 or, simply, e1553, which allows speeds
of 200 Mbps. E1553 is similar to DSL protocols in
the sense that it is a multicarrier protocol compatible
with existing 1553B equipment.
In 2006, the e1553 standard became part of MILSTD-1553B with the publication of MIL-STD1553B Notice 5.
AS5662: The AS5662 standard is another variant of
MIL-STD-1553B [154]. It reaches a 10 Mbps speed.
In a star topology, the bus controller acting as a hub
can connect up to 31 remote terminals. Alternatively,
it is possible to connect the bus controller to 8
hubs and each hub to 31 remote terminals in turn.
AS5662 does not allow message exchange between
RTs. It is included as a standard network in the MILSTD-3016 draft of the Miniature Munitions Stores
Interface Task Group
Def Stan 00-18 (Part 3) is a simplified version of
Def Stan 00-18 (Part 2)/MIL-STD-1553B for pointto-point or point-to-multipoint connections [155]. It
supports simplex, half-duplex and full-duplex links.
Def Stan 00-18 (Part 3) preserves the physical layer
specifications of MIL-STD-1553B and provides simpler message formats.
Other related standards:
∗ Def Stan 00-18 (Part 4): Defines several physical interfaces for different MIL-STD-1553B func-
∗ BSG 264/Def Stan 00-18 (Part 7): Low cost
version of MIL-STD-1553B.
∗ prEN3910/STANAG 3910/EFA Bus/EFA Express
Bus: Defines a 20 Mbps optical network that is
operated by a MIL-STD-1553B network, which
restricts low-bandwidth devices to the twisted pair.
This bus is used in the Eurofighter Typhoon.
ARINC-429 [156]–[158] is one of the standards used in
passenger, cargo or military aircraft. When electronics
manufacturers for commercial aircraft dismissed further
development of MIL-STD-1553 because it was too demanding for their purposes at the beginning of the 70s,
they looked for simpler alternatives for the transmission
of digital data. They produced a collection of protocols
based on a transmitter and multiple receivers, which were
described in the ARINC-419 document. From those ideas,
ARINC-429 protocols were developed and collected in
1977, and became an industrial standard.
The first implementations of this standard were carried
out in the Airbus A-310, the Boeing B-757 and the B767 in the early 80s. These airplanes have about 150
buses that interconnect different displays, sensors, radios,
controls and computers. With the exception of the buses
connecting navigation computers at 100 Kbps, the data
transmission rates were an order of magnitude lower.
The ARINC-429 document was entitled Digital Information Transfer System (DITS), deliberately excluding
the concept of data bus since the standard specified a
one-way communication. ARINC-429 allows bus or star
topologies, both with a single producer of data, although
a return connection can be used to support full-duplex
transmissions. The bus is an unshielded twisted pair,
allowing a length of up to 50 meters at 12 Kbps or 100
ARINC-629 [159]–[161] was an attempt to improve
the limited bandwidth and excessive wiring weight of
ARINC-429. ARINC-629 grew out of Boeing’s DATACE
program, Digital Autonomous Terminal Access Communication, and became a standard in 1989. It is part of the
implementation of the control and FBW systems in the
Boeing 777.
An ARINC-629 bus is a twisted pair terminated with
impedances. The nodes are connected to the bus through a
coupled cable of up to 40 meters. It is possible to connect
up to 120 nodes to the same bus at a data rate of 2 Mbps.
B. Bus protocols of use in the aeronautical sector and the
automotive sector
The aeronautical sector, especially the commercial subsector, has decided to adopt communication protocols that have
proven to be successful in cars.
• CAN: While the automotive electronics industry has
expanded considerably, the avionics electronics industry
has developed at a mach slower pace, particularly in
the area of military aircraft. The high competitiveness
of the consumer market makes automotive electronics
much cheaper. However, some of their requirements are
similar to those of fighter planes. CAN devices can work
in temperature ranges from -40o C to 125o C, not far from
the military ranges from -55o C to 125o C.
CAN is a robust serial communication protocol that provides distributed control in real time. It was developed by
Bosch in 1985. Although CAN was orginally developed
for passengers cars, it was soon successfully used for
industrial machine control, making standardization necessary. Currently, CAN fieldbuses are mainly used in the
automotive industry, linking control units, sensors, safety
systems, and other elements with data rates of up to 1
Mbps. Furthermore, it is a more advanced bus technology
than MIL-STD-1553 and ARINC-429, enabling real-time
communications and reducing system wiring. In fact, the
CAN bus is used on Airbus aircrafts, including the A380,
and by Boeing in the 787.
In CAN, since collisions are not destructive, low priority messages may starve. This is one of the problems
that aeronautical implementations must overcome. For
example, military implementations mostly require small
physical layer level fixes. Some of these implementations
– MilCAN: The Milco Working Group [162] was
formed in 1998 as a subgroup of the International
High Speed Data Bus Users Group of NATO. It
recognized the need for standardization of the CAN
bus of military vehicles. Milco is essentially a layer
on top of ISO 11898.
– CANaerospace: CANaerospace [163] was introduced
in 1997 by Michael Stock Flight Systems [164]. It
is used in the Eurocopter Tiger simulator [165]. It is
an application layer on top of CAN. It specifies five
types of messages but frees the user to define more
types. It also covers bus redundancy.
– TTCAN [166], which was developed in the early
2000s, solves the problem of starvation of low
priority messages by means of CAN bus planning
techniques, at the expense of lower data transmission
speeds. In certain scenarios, such as XBW, a decrease
in transmission rate is acceptable as far as there
is a bounded delay in message reception. TTCA is
based on a session layer that provides CAN-based
communication time slots.
Time Triggered Protocol (TTP): The TT architecture
[167] has been studied for 25 years and there is extensive literature on operating systems, applications and
data transmission protocols based on timing, as well as
an organization that is responsible for its development
called the TTA-Group [168]. There are two versions
of the protocol, called TTP/A and TTP/C. The Society
of Automotive Engineers, SAE, defines three types of
communication systems according to safety requirements.
Class A refers to low-speed systems such as window
or seat checks or, in general, integration of transducers
in a distributed control system. Class B is for highspeed systems without safety requirements. Finally, class
C includes systems with high safety requirements and
deterministic operation. Some examples of TTP/C are the
digital bus for engine control of the Lockheed Martin F16 or the cabin pressure control of the Airbus A380.
– TTP/C defines bus, star or hybrid topologies of up
to 64 nodes without a controller, which can transmit
at speeds of up to 25 Mbps at distances of up
to 120 meters. TTP does not specify the physical
layer of the protocol, but assumes the existence of
two independent redundant channels that can send
different information if the safety requirements are
not critical.
The upper layers of TTP/C provide security services,
health node monitoring and fault-tolerant services.
– TTP/A does not define a physical layer, but it needs a
two-channel bus. The bus supports up to 255 nodes.
One of the nodes is the master and handles signaling
when transmission begins.
IEEE 1394/FireWire: FireWire, created by Apple in 1986
and an IEEE standard since 1995, supports a rate of
hundreds or thousands of megabits per second. It is
used in commercial products such as camcorders for
isochronous multimedia streaming. In 2004, the avionics
division of SAE AS5643 proposed the IEEE-1394b standard, Interface Requirements for Military and Aerospace
Vehicle Applications, to be adopted in military vehicles
Summing up, an IEEE 1394 bus allows up to 1023
nodes connected in a chained or tree topology with
up to 63 nodes per bus, using a shielded cable with
two twisted pairs and power cables. The medium access
schema follows a question/answer architecture that prevents starvation of distant nodes and allows hot-plugging.
It provides two classes of service, for synchronous and
asynchronous data transfer.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter employs IEEE 1394-like
protocols to connect diverse systems such as its control
system and the VHM.
ARINC created the Network Infrastructure and Security
(NIS) Subcommittee [172] to adapt commercial network
standards to the aviation industry and to face emerging
bandwidth needs of cabin applications.
– ARINC-664 is the main initiative of this subcommittee. This document attempts to adapt IEEE 802 and
ISO OSI. It is organized as follows:
∗ Part 1 is an overview of the state of the art
in telecommunications networks in the aviation
industry as well as a glossary and a tutorial for the
adaptation of commercial networks to aeronautics.
∗ Part 2 is an overview of the Ethernet standard and
its relationship with avionics networks.
∗ Part 3 defines the services of transport and network layers of the Internet. It is useful for defining
avionics protocols.
∗ Part 4 addresses the problem of Internet routing
and its application in avionics networks.
Def Stan 00-18
IEEE 1394b
Aircraft models
F-16 Fighting Falcon,
F-18 Hornet
Airbus A-330, Airbus
A-340, Boeing B-757,
Boeing B-767
F-20 Tigershark, B-52
Airbus A-380, Boeing
Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV)
Boeing B-777
Airbus A-380
Airbus A-380, Boeing
787, Airbus A400M,
Sukhoi Superjet 100
∗ Part 5 provides guidelines for construction of
networking components, hubs, switches, routers,
repeaters and methods for network interconnection with the outside.
∗ Part 7 defines a deterministic full-duplex Ethernet
network for avionics, called AFDX.
∗ Part 8 is a guide to protocols and interoperability
with IP-based services.
– AFDX [173]–[175] is a real-time implementation
of ARINC-664 developed by Rockwell Collins for
Airbus (see Part 7 above). Airbus is installing AFDX
in critical safety areas. Boeing also plans to install
fiber optic AFDX on its B787 Dreamliner.
The AFDX Ethernet architecture follows a star topology that allows speeds of 10 to 100 Mbps. The nodes
of the topology are connected to other subsystems of
the aircraft and the center of the star is a switch that
routes the Ethernet packets. It is possible to connect
multiple switches in cascade to expand the network.
AFDX specifies that the entire network must be
duplicated to ensure its operation in case of failure.
The upper AFDX Ethernet layers support diverse IPoriented protocols such as UDP, SNMP and TFTP.
To sum up, Table II presents some of the communication
bus standards under review, the year in which they were introduced, their topology and some aircraft models that employ
From what we have seen until now, the mutual influence of
the aeronautical and automotive industries is rather evident.
Figure 1 shows the gaps between the appearance of a
given technology in aircrafts and its subsequent introduction
in automobiles. Although the curves are nonlinear, the gaps
have tended to decrease in recent decades. Some reasons why
some technologies are first introduced in aircrafts and later
appear in the automotive sector are:
1) Cost is relevant in commercial airplane design, yet much
less relevant than in an end-consumer market.
Fig. 1. Technology introduction dates for aeronautical and automotive sectors.
2) New developments reach the automotive mass-market
later, when economies of scale make them economically
feasible to or when new regulations make them compulsory. The time to market is shorter in high-end models
and longer in cheaper models.
The progressively shorter gap between the aeronautical and
the automotive sector can be attributed to the following:
1) Current innovation cycles are shorter. Eventually, the
gap will be negligible. The technologies that first appear
in the automotive sector might later be adopted in the
aeronautics industry. We have seen a clear example in
commercial data buses.
2) Many aeronautical companies are also present in the
automotive sector [176]–[179]. This makes technology
transfer a must to maximize profit.
Regarding internal communications, it is interesting to note
two trends: an evolution from aeronautical-specific to common standards, and a progressive convergence with COTS
technology towards protocols such as Ethernet and IEEE
1394b, despite the fact that the aerial platforms they serve
are increasingly complex. Thus, it may happen that future
bus standards will not be exclusive to the aeronautical sector.
Their particular implementations for this sector will simply
satisfy more demanding constraints than those of consumer
There is a clear tendency to use COTS systems in the
aeronautical industry, compared to in-house hardware and
software. Currently, there are too many electronic systems in
an airplane and thus, it becomes very difficult for manufacturers to undertake the design and development of all their
components. A consequence of this trend is the adoption of
open standards to facilitate interconnection of modules from
different manufacturers. For example, nowadays it is possible
to find robust versions of CAN or Ethernet buses in aircrafts.
As a consequence, it is now easier to find information about
components for commercial and military aircraft. For example,
the real-time CAN and Ethernet versions for avionics may be
of interest for critical applications related to automotive safety.
The use of COTS systems has not diminished the need for
high safety systems. The hardware/software products used in
the aerospace and defense sectors must be qualified. These
certifications are only granted to products that have undergone a design and manufacturing process according to safety
We have seen how it is possible to borrow some interesting
concepts for the automotive sector. We can cite the following:
• The design of modules that can accommodate several
functions such as aircraft IMA in order to further reduce
the number of ECUs in automobiles.
• Haptic feedback in car controls and devices such as
steering wheels, pedals and radios.
• Fast visual access to information regarding the status of
the vehicle without taking the eyes off the road, as in the
case of fighter HUDs. This concept is already appearing
in high-end cars.
• EFB devices that contain all the technical documentation.
It has been proposed to use commercial nomadic devices
to take data to cars [126].
• HMS systems. In fact, there are some initiatives in
industrial transportation and high-end cars.
• Drive-by-Wire systems are now widely used in the automotive world. Further enhancements may include driving
style personalization. These systems must fulfil stringent
fault-tolerant specifications. The experience of the aircraft
industry in fault-tolerant systems may be of great interest.
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