Solving the Problem of Integrating Separate FTI Product Lines

Flight Test Instrumentation

Standards make life easier for everyone. Imagine if every phone you bought needed a different cable or every pack of bolts had their own type of nut. In the world of flight test instrumentation (FTI) data acquisition equipment, this is somewhat still the case. It’s a niche industry and there are still a lack of agreed standards so it is not yet possible to plug different data acquisition systems (DAS) from different manufacturers together and expect them to work without some level of integration effort. This can even be an issue with different product lines in a single company.

Many DAS now use Ethernet as a communication backbone, so in theory it should be possible to simply connect different DAS together through an Ethernet switch. In reality, there can be differences in communication and timing protocols that need addressing. A significant problem is that no one software can setup and manage these DAS.

The result of this is that it is much easier for an FTI department to select a sole source supplier and stay within one ecosystem of products as long as it works well enough and they are not forced to another vendor for one reason or another. That does not mean they would not like to cherry pick products from multiple vendors, but it is generally not worth the risk and effort to do this.

Curtiss-Wright found itself considering this problem in some detail after it acquired Teletronics Technology Corporation. We now had two significant portfolios of data acquisition lines with two separate software suites. The obvious step was to find a way to allow users of each system to selectively choose between product lines to get exactly what they wanted without worrying about compatibility.