Flight Test Instrumentation System Design and Integration

December 06, 2019

Flight Test Instrumentation System Design and Integration

Published in Aerospace Testing International
Written by Sridhar Kanamluru

Modern aircraft flight test instrumentation system design revolves around defining the most efficient method to collect aircraft data for both on board recording and real-time telemetry transmission.

Depending on the type of vehicle being tested and the nature of the test, the number of measurements captured during a flight test may exceed thousands. Likewise, depending on the avionics bus types, the aggregate bus data rates may exceed multiples of 10 Gbps.

The challenge for today’s FTI system designer is to identify the sub-systems and components that enable the collection, aggregation and recording of this vast amount of measurement data while also identifying and selecting, in real-time, the safety or mission critical data for the TM downlink.

The new generation of FTI systems uses an Ethernet networked system that includes data acquisition units (DAU), cameras, switches, recorders, gateways, and RF equipment for the collection, collation, recording and transmission of TM data. The network FTI system designer’s focus is on the entire lifecycle of the test data, from the origin at the airborne sensors, through the DAUs and then to the network for recording and transmission to the ground. Once the data reaches the ground, it must be efficiently visualized for analysis and data mining.

One of the big challenges for the network FTI system designer is how to integrate a complete solution that enables common network programming and setup of the FTI parameters and output types and supports the selection of mission and safety critical parameters. The various airborne and ground hardware needed to integrate a complete FTI system are often sourced from multiple suppliers. Unfortunately this adds complexity as the different components cannot be easily configured by a single setup application.

Organizations that design and manufacture solutions can speed, ease and lower the cost of integrating a complete FTI system by providing a common seamless software platform for setting up the entire system.

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