Multi-Core Processors Are the Key to Unlocking Aviation’s Future

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Written by Andrew Reilly

Nearly every piece of technology that airline passengers use in their daily lives enjoys the performance benefits provided by multi-core processors (MCPs). Phones, tablets and computers derive enhanced efficiency by combining multiple central processing unit (CPU) cores, which can share tasks and resources such as cache memory, into one physical unit.

But avionics do not, continuing to rely on single-core processors (SCPs) even as the rest of the industry has moved on to MCPs. “These days in commercial aviation, everything is multi-core outside of avionics,” said Alex Wilson, director of Aerospace & Defense Solutions with Wind River.

Single-core processing remains stubbornly perched atop the avionics world because of the complexities involved with MCP certification.


Rick Hearn, senior product manager with Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, says MCPs allow operators to absorb numerous applications that used to run in systems across the aircraft into a single unit.

“They also allow you to have different certification levels for all those different functions spread across multiple cores,” added Hearn, whose company provides safety-critical hardware for the defense and commercial markets.

There are also tangible safety gains, according to Hearn. When information is getting to pilots faster and clearer, “[it] decreases the effort that the pilot has to put into flying the aircraft, lessens the workload, and ultimately creates an overall safer working environment,” said Hearn.

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