AerospaceFan
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Network-Centric Flight?

Sat Dec 24, 2005 6:58 pm

Just from the standpoint of an observer, and not anything near a flight professional, I was wondering what the trends were regarding the use of computer networks in modern airliners.

I suspect -- but don't know -- that the latest generation of commercial aircraft are filled to the brim with computerized components, and that therefore there is some kind of operating system that coordinates between the various equipment involved. For example, a flight computer would need to know precisely what the state of the aerilons is at every moment, and presumably there is some kind of feedback mediated by some kind of operating system.

There is a second element to this question, and that relates analogously to the idea of a "God's eye" view of resource coordination, as evidenced in the U.S. military. The latest and greatest in USAF operations is the network-centralization of various computerized "resources" (aircraft, etc.) through the use of AWACS aircraft and similar equipment. In fact, the F-22 is famously network-centric, as I recall, adding greatly to its superiority over previous generations of aircraft. Thus, the issue to me is whether commercial airliners have, or will develop, a similar networking capability with outside coordinators (controllers, perhaps, or even regional tracking facilities) that will allow such things as closer separation distances, faster speeds at lower altitudes, etc.

This is a question asked purely without agenda or indeed much knowledge in this field, and any insightful comments or speculation would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

[Edited 2005-12-24 11:00:33]
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AerospaceFan
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RE: Network-Centric Flight?

Sat Dec 24, 2005 7:45 pm

Typographical correction -- obviously I meant "ailerons", not "aerilons". Sorry about that!
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star_world
Posts: 943
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RE: Network-Centric Flight?

Sat Dec 24, 2005 8:50 pm

The A380 is the first aircraft to have an Ethernet-based data bus that the various systems are connected to. Some information on this can be found here:

http://www.aviationtoday.com/cgi/av/...?pub=av&mon=0702&file=0702afdx.htm

There have been standards in place from ARINC for a long time which define a common interface for different aircraft systems to connect to each other. This is both from a physical interface perspective, as well as the data format used. I only have limited knowledge of this but I know the right people to ask when I need to have a specific question answered  Smile

I'm sure someone else can provide much more detailed information on the subject, but hope this helps anyway...!
 
AerospaceFan
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RE: Network-Centric Flight?

Sun Dec 25, 2005 1:45 am

These are very useful comments. I had no idea that Airbus was so advanced and I'm fascinated that it is one of the first companies to use computer networking in such a sophisticated way.

Thanks for the great response!
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bhmbaglock
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RE: Network-Centric Flight?

Sun Dec 25, 2005 2:26 am

One interesting early experiment with this was a Boeing (not a mistake) modified Blackhawk in the early/mid 80's called the LightHawk. It used fiber-optic flight controls and as I recall it was a redundant bus(network) setup. I don't have details as I didn't work on the project but just happened to be working on others at the same time.

As I recall, the idea was to demonstrate that light could be used instead of electricity, i.e. fly by light vs. fly by wire, with the added advantage that EM pulses would not interfere with this system. It worked well but I don't know of any practical uses at this point.

One interesting bit, this project was ongoing during the time that the BlackHawk fleet was grounded to to EM interference issues after a few crashes when flying too close to large radio/TV towers. For a month or two it was the only BlackHawk flying.

I did a search in the database and there were no pictures - unusual; not even much info out there on the web.

Are there any current military or civ a/c programs using fiber-optic for communications?
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