Why real ruggedization matters for COTS FPGA hardware
in aerospace and defense applications

March 31, 2017 | BY: Denis Smetana

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In today’s aerospace and defense industry, threats are increasingly more technologically advanced and systems need to perform at new levels that previously did not exist. Adding to that the increased use of Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) hardware in today’s aerospace and defense military systems, the need for proper testing and qualification has never been so high.


Figure 1: FPGAs need to be tested in extreme temperatures for proper qualification.

FPGAs are a key component for digital signal processing at the front-end of Radar, Signal Intelligence (SIGINT), and Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, but they also present significant challenges as their use grows. As FPGAs grow in size and capability, their power consumption increases and thermal management becomes increasingly important. These thermal challenges alone provide a solid case for why careful qualification and testing is important for each FPGA used in a system. When considering FPGA modules from COTS suppliers it is important to understand what qualification has been performed and what data can be provided on that qualification. This is critical to ensure the FPGA card will be able to handle the specific use-case that you will be implementing on the module.

By ensuring the FPGA module can perform in even the most extreme temperatures, and by identifying any key tradeoffs, you can guarantee a more efficient system overall. Alternatively if a supplier does not fully test their modules under sufficiently stressful conditions and is unable to provide key information, serious deficiencies may be lurking that won’t be found until system level qualification is undertaken.

Learn more about the challenges FPGA modules carry and how to best meet them including:

  • Technical design enhancements
  • Qualification processes
  • Key data

Download our white paper on Dissecting Rugged Development of COTS FPGA Hardware here.


Author’s Biography

Denis Smetana

Senior Product Manager - FPGA

Denis Smetana is Senior Product Manager for FPGA products for Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, based out of Ashburn Virginia. He has over 25 years of experience with ASIC and FPGA product development and management in both the telecom and defense industry and over 10 years of experience with COTS FPGA products. He has a BSEE in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech.

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