The Killer App – Combining Embedded Processors, FPGAs and Smart Software
Historically, CPUs and FPGAs have been the workhorse technologies employed in Data Acquisition Units (DAU). Both technologies have their advantages and disadvantages but their utility have traditionally been constrained by the limited resources available to embedded systems.
However, over the last few years, the amount of persistent storage, working memory, and processing power available to embedded devices has increased exponentially. This has opened up the possibility of deploying ever more complex and intelligent software-based services on to the DAUs themselves.
This conference paper describes the benefits of using a mixture of both FPGA and CPU-based technologies in conjunction with flexible software in a Flight Test context. The discussion begins by describing some of the advantages and disadvantages of both CPU and FPGA-based systems. The different types of services that run on a DAU are then outlined in addition to their level of criticality and importance in the context of a flight test. The suitability of FPGAs and CPUs for each of these services is also discussed.
Finally, the possibilities presented by the increase in resources available to embedded systems are then outlined. Specifically, the potential of embedding smart software on Data Acquisition Units with particular emphasis on potential services that are not routinely available at present.
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