Avionics, the electronic systems integrated into aircraft, are at the forefront of a revolution in aviation. These systems have evolved significantly, with a primary focus on enhancing safety, improving efficiency, and delivering unprecedented situational awareness. In this article, we will explore the latest trends and innovations in both commercial and military aviation avionics, highlighting their collective impact on the aviation industry.
Aircraft avionics is the most crucial component of aircraft systems and helps in providing various operational and virtual information in-flight and on the ground. Aerospace avionics include navigation, communication, and surveillance systems along with other electrical systems and in-flight entertainment systems.
The Essence of Situational Awareness
Situational awareness, in aviation, refers to a pilot’s ability to understand and interpret the current state of their aircraft, as well as the surrounding environment. It involves monitoring various parameters such as altitude, airspeed, heading, and weather conditions while simultaneously assessing potential hazards. Having a high level of situational awareness is critical for making timely and informed decisions to ensure safe and efficient flight operations.
Advanced Avionics for Enhanced Situational Awareness and Safety
Next-generation avionics are transforming the cockpit into a hub of cutting-edge technology, equipping pilots with the tools they need to maintain optimal situational awareness. Aviation’s paramount concern has always been safety, and advanced avionics are pivotal in achieving this goal. Safety is enhanced by enabling better situational awareness. Safety can be increased by providing more information for you in an easier-to-interpret presentation.
These systems have evolved to provide better situational awareness and ensure the utmost safety for passengers and crew.
Here are some of the key ways in which these systems are achieving this:
Electro-optic systems include devices such as the head-up display (HUD), forward looking infrared (FLIR), infra-red search and track and other passive infrared devices (Passive infrared sensor). These are all used to provide imagery and information to the flight crew. This imagery is used for everything from search and rescue to navigational aids and target acquisition.
Advanced Flight Data Systems: Modern aircraft are equipped with highly sophisticated flight data systems that continuously collect and analyze information from various sensors and instruments. These systems provide real-time data on the aircraft’s performance, helping pilots identify and respond to any deviations from the intended flight path.
Enhanced Weather Radar: Next-gen avionics incorporate advanced weather radar systems that can detect and display real-time weather conditions along the flight route. This enables pilots to navigate around areas of turbulence, thunderstorms, or icing, reducing the risk of weather-related incidents.
Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS): SVS technology creates a 3D virtual representation of the external environment using data from GPS, terrain databases, and other sensors. This virtual view is displayed on the cockpit screens, even in poor visibility conditions, giving pilots a clear picture of their surroundings.
Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS): TAWS technology provides pilots with crucial information about their proximity to terrain and obstacles. It issues warnings or alerts if the aircraft is too close to the ground or on a collision course with terrain, significantly reducing the risk of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents.
Enhanced Navigation Systems: Air navigation is the determination of position and direction on or above the surface of the Earth. Avionics can use satellite navigation systems (such as GPS and WAAS), INS( inertial navigation system), ground-based radio navigation systems (such as VOR or LORAN), or any combination thereof.Next-gen avionics include state-of-the-art navigation systems that offer precise position information, improving route accuracy and reducing the margin for error during flights. These systems also support advanced flight management capabilities.
Collision Avoidance Systems: In both commercial and military aircraft, TCAS plays a critical role in preventing mid-air collisions by detecting nearby aircraft and providing instructions to pilots, significantly enhancing safety. Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems (TCAS) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) systems work together to provide real-time traffic information to pilots, helping them avoid potential mid-air collisions.
Enhanced Communication: Avionics systems have revolutionized in-flight communication. They connect the flight deck to ground control and passengers, ensuring effective communication while enhancing the passenger experience.
Flight Data Systems: These systems continuously collect and analyze aircraft performance data, offering real-time information to detect deviations from the intended flight path.
Automation for Efficiency and Accuracy
The avionics system receives data from the air traffic management system and feeds this information to the pilot to select an approach path to the destination. Avionics systems have automated many tasks that were previously manual, reducing pilot workload and enhancing efficiency. Flight Management Systems (FMS) and Area Navigation (RNAV) units, for instance, perform calculations and continually track the aircraft’s position, minimizing errors.
For example, an area navigation (RNAV) or flight management system (FMS) unit accepts a list of points that define a flight route and automatically performs most of the course, distance, time, and fuel calculations. Once en route, the FMS or RNAV unit can continually track the position of the aircraft with respect to the flight route, and display the course, time, and distance remaining to each point along the planned route.
Further, Aircraft have means of automatically controlling flight. Nowadays most commercial planes are equipped with aircraft flight control systems in order to reduce pilot error and workload at landing or takeoff.
Fuel Management and Monitoring
Fuel Quantity Indication System (FQIS) monitors the amount of fuel aboard. Using various sensors, such as capacitance tubes, temperature sensors, densitometers & level sensors, the FQIS computer calculates the mass of fuel remaining on board. This data is crucial for flight planning, ensuring the aircraft operates within safe fuel limits.
Data Recording and Analysis
Cockpit data recorders, known as “black boxes,” store flight data and cockpit audio, aiding investigations in the event of an incident or accident. Analyzing this data is essential for determining the sequence of events.
Impact of IoT on Avionics
The Internet of Things (IoT) has made a significant impact on aviation. IoT devices enhance operational efficiency and passenger experiences. Airlines leverage IoT for baggage tracking, pet monitoring during transit, equipment health monitoring, and fuel efficiency optimization. Advanced sensors in aircraft engines generate data used for predictive maintenance, reducing costs and environmental impact.
For the commercial airline sector, IoT presents an unprecedented opportunity to enhance operational efficiency and provide a more personalized experience for passengers. Airlines are already embarking on innovative IoT projects aimed at improving various aspects of air travel:
- Passenger Experience: IoT can significantly enhance the passenger experience. Airlines are exploring ways to use IoT to offer passengers more personalized services, from in-flight entertainment preferences to cabin climate control.
- Baggage Handling: By integrating IoT devices into luggage, airlines can track baggage in real-time, reducing the risk of lost or mishandled luggage, which is a common passenger concern.
- Pet Tracking: For travelers with pets, IoT-enabled tracking devices can provide peace of mind by allowing them to monitor their pets’ well-being and location throughout the journey.
- Equipment Monitoring: IoT sensors are being employed to monitor the health and performance of aircraft equipment. This proactive approach can lead to quicker maintenance responses and increased safety.
- Fuel Efficiency: One of the most significant advancements in aviation due to IoT is the integration of sensors in aircraft engines. For instance, Bombardier’s CSeries jetliner features Pratt & Whitney’s Geared Turbo Fan (GTF) engine, equipped with an astounding 5000 sensors that generate a staggering 10 GB of data per second. Over a 12-hour flight, a twin-engine aircraft can produce a colossal 844 TB of data. This data is harnessed to build artificial intelligence models that predict engine demands and allow for precise adjustments in thrust levels. Consequently, GTF engines have demonstrated a remarkable 10% to 15% reduction in fuel consumption, along with impressive improvements in engine noise reduction and emissions.
- Next-Generation Data Networks: Aircraft like Boeing 787 Dreamliners and A350s are embracing Ethernet-based, next-generation data networks known as AFDX, offering transmission speeds of up to 12.5 MB/s. This enables rapid and efficient data transfer from avionics systems to maintenance teams on the ground. Real-time location data of aircraft is leveraged to inform various actions, ranging from advertising billboards to flight information dashboards, and even optimizing flight routes.
In conclusion, the IoT revolution is not just on the horizon; it is already reshaping the aviation industry. From enhancing passenger experiences to optimizing aircraft performance and safety, IoT’s impact on avionics is a testament to the power of connected technology in aviation’s future. As the industry continues to evolve, we can expect further innovations and improvements that will benefit both airlines and passengers alike.
Military Aircraft Avionics
Military aircraft avionics serve diverse functions, from weapons delivery to reconnaissance. These systems are designed to operate in harsh conditions, meeting stringent environmental standards while focusing on specialized mission functions.
Essential Components of Military Aircraft Avionics: Military aircraft avionics rely on sophisticated electronics systems and equipment to perform a wide range of combat and non-combat functions. They include displays, flight control, activity monitors, weapon trackers, navigation systems, computing architectures, countermeasure dispensers, human-machine interface (HMI), secure tactical communications, and radio, electro-optic and infrared (IR) threat sensors.
- Displays: Military aircraft avionics are equipped with advanced displays that provide crucial information to pilots, enabling them to make informed decisions swiftly.
- Flight Control: Flight control systems (FCS) encompass a range of hardware and software systems responsible for cockpit flight controls, autopilot systems, data acquisition, flight recorders, and aircraft management computers. These systems are vital for ensuring precise and reliable control over the aircraft.
- Activity Monitors: Activity monitors track various aspects of the aircraft’s performance, offering real-time data to both pilots and ground operators.
- Weapon Trackers: Military aircraft often serve as delivery platforms for a variety of weapons. Avionics systems include weapon trackers that guide and deploy these munitions with pinpoint accuracy.
- Navigation Systems: Advanced navigation systems ensure that military aircraft can operate effectively in complex and challenging environments, including remote and hostile territories.
- Computing Architectures: Computing architectures underpin the avionics systems, providing the necessary computational power for various tasks, from data processing to system control.
- Countermeasure Dispensers: These systems are crucial for deploying countermeasures, such as flares and chaff, to defend against incoming threats like missiles and enemy aircraft.
- Human-Machine Interface (HMI): HMI systems are designed to facilitate seamless interaction between the pilot and the aircraft’s avionics, making it easier for operators to manage and control the aircraft’s functions.
- Secure Tactical Communications: Military operations require secure and reliable communications. Avionics systems include secure tactical communication equipment to facilitate encrypted communication between aircraft and ground-based stations.
- Radio, Electro-Optic, and Infrared (IR) Threat Sensors: Threat sensors play a crucial role in detecting potential dangers, including enemy radar, electronic warfare signals, and infrared threats.
Innovations and Trends in Military Aircraft Avionics:
A few trends are emerging in military aircraft avionics – including a continued push toward large touch-screen displays, as well as a migration to multicore processing, open architectures, and a new focus on improving cyber resilience. The global commercial avionics market is undergoing a transition from a ground-based system to a satellite-based air traffic control system and is headed towards more compute-intensive, high-speed, and high-bandwidth avionics.
Advanced Flight Control Systems: The flight control systems (FCS) of the military aircraft include various hardware and software systems for primary and secondary cockpit flight controls such as autopilot, data acquisition systems, flight recorders, aircraft management computers, active inceptor systems, and Electrohydrostatic Actuation (EHA) systems, among others. Currently, all the military aircraft flight control systems are developed based on the Fly-by-Wire (FBW) technology.Military aircraft are increasingly adopting advanced flight control systems based on Fly-by-Wire (FBW) technology. These systems provide greater control precision and responsiveness.
Mission-Management Computers: Larger sensor platforms are equipped with mission-management computers that help process vast amounts of data for tactical purposes.
The field of avionics displays is currently undergoing significant technological advancements that are reshaping the way pilots interact with their aircraft. Key trends and innovations in avionics displays are at the forefront of modern cockpit design, enhancing both safety and operational efficiency.
Prominent Trends in Avionics Displays:
Large Format and Touch Screen Displays: The trend in military aircraft avionics is moving toward large touch-screen displays, which provide intuitive interfaces for pilots, enhancing situational awareness and control. Flight decks are increasingly transitioning to three or four large displays, providing pilots with an intuitive and expansive view of critical information. Touch-screen technology is becoming a standard human-machine interface, simplifying interactions and streamlining tasks.
Data-Driven Decision Making: Avionics displays are evolving to handle and analyze large volumes of data. This data-driven approach is leading to the integration of multicore processors. The processing demands are rising, and avionics systems are focusing on cyber resilience, ensuring that critical flight data remains secure and reliable.
Terrain Following-Terrain Avoidance (TF/TA) Systems: Advanced avionics displays are at the heart of TF/TA systems, enhancing the safety and capabilities of fighter jets. These systems allow aircraft to operate safely at low altitudes, in zero visibility, and under adverse weather conditions, such as Instrument Meteorological Conditions. By interfacing with autopilot systems and utilizing data from onboard sensors and terrain databases, TF/TA systems enable precise and undetectable flight operations in hostile territories.
External Vision Systems: NASA’s eXternal Vision System and similar innovations leverage avionics displays to enhance pilot situational awareness. These systems utilize high-resolution displays to show images from external cameras and terrain data. Collaborative efforts between organizations like Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and NASA, along with companies like Collins Aerospace, have resulted in optimized avionics solutions. These solutions include touchscreen primary flight displays, head-up display (HUD) symbology, synthetic vision, communication radios, and navigation equipment. Additionally, advanced visual sensors and infrared technology, such as multi-spectral enhanced vision systems, enable pilots to land safely in various weather conditions.
Multicore Processing: To meet the demands of modern warfare, avionics systems are migrating to multicore processing, enabling faster and more efficient data handling.
Open Architectures: Open architectures are becoming more prevalent, offering flexibility and ease of integration with various avionics components.
Cyber Resilience: Avionics systems are evolving with a focus on improving cyber resilience, as the threat of cyberattacks becomes more prominent in modern warfare scenarios.
Military communications and avionics encompass a broad range of technologies crucial for both safe flight and battlefield operations. Aircraft communications are the backbone of aviation safety, utilizing UHF, VHF Tactical, SatCom systems, ECCM methods, and encryption to secure transmissions. Data links like Link 11, 16, 22, BOWMAN, JTRS, and TETRA enable the transmission of critical data, including images and targeting information.
Radar technology plays a pivotal role in military avionics, offering the advantage of altitude for extended range. Types of radar include airborne early warning (AEW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and weather radar, as well as ground tracking and proximity radar. While civil aviation has used weather radar for navigation, strict regulations govern its use for civilian aircraft.
Sonar technology, deployed on various military helicopters, is vital for protecting naval assets from submarines and surface threats. Additionally, maritime support aircraft drop sonobuoys, both active and passive, to locate enemy submarines.
Electro-optic systems, including head-up displays (HUD), forward-looking infrared (FLIR), infrared search and track, and passive infrared sensors, provide crucial imagery and information for flight crews. These systems support a wide range of applications, from search and rescue to navigation and target acquisition.
Electronic support measures (ESM) and defensive aids systems (DAS) play essential roles in gathering intelligence about threats and launching countermeasures against potential dangers. These systems are instrumental in identifying and addressing threats to military aircraft.
Liquid metal Antennas
Modern aircraft requires variety of antennas for radar , communications and Electronic warfare and when these are integerated on the airframe can compromise its structural integrity or increasing drag and fuel consumption. With a diverse range of missions, aircraft require the reconfiguration of antennas to perform multiple functionalities.
Liquid metal antennas:
Modern aircraft requires variety of antennas for radar , communications and Electronic warfare and when these are integerated on the airframe can compromise its structural integrity or increasing drag and fuel consumption. With a diverse range of missions, aircraft require the reconfiguration of antennas to perform multiple functionalities.
Liquid metal antennas represent a groundbreaking innovation in aircraft technology. These antennas, composed of fluidic metal alloys embedded within flexible polymers, offer the capability to reconfigure and adapt their functionality to meet specific mission requirements. This unique feature allows for tunable frequency, directional operation, and even multi-operational capabilities without compromising the aircraft’s structural integrity or increasing drag and fuel consumption.
As liquid metal technology continues to advance, the potential for integration into various electronic processes and further enhancements, such as preventing solidification at high altitudes, holds promise for the future of aviation. Liquid metal antennas offer a flexible and efficient solution to the diverse communication and radar needs of modern aircraft, ensuring optimal performance while minimizing structural alterations.
Honeywell is at the forefront of research into speech recognition and control technology, aiming to revolutionize cockpit operations by simplifying the execution of infrequently used commands. Among the innovations being explored is an Air Traffic Control (ATC) transcription technology designed to convert ATC communications received by pilots into easily readable text format, seamlessly displayed on devices like tablets, such as iPads. This advancement holds the potential to enhance communication efficiency and reduce the manual workload on pilots, ultimately contributing to safer and more streamlined aviation operations.
Runway Overrun Alerting and Awareness System
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) highlights a concerning statistic, with approximately one-third of business aviation accidents during the landing phase involving runway excursions. To address this issue, the Runway Overrun Alerting and Awareness System (ROAAS) has been developed. This innovative system offers pilots a user-friendly interface with both visual and auditory alerts. These alerts include real-time comparisons between the remaining runway length and the predicted stopping distance, providing invaluable support to enhance safety during takeoff and landing operations.
In the field of supersonic aviation, significant strides are being made in cockpit display technology to address the impact of sonic booms, generated when an aircraft surpasses the speed of sound. Ongoing research, led by experts in the field, aims to develop sophisticated software capable of identifying sonic boom occurrence points, assessing their effects on ground-level populations, and proposing adjustments to the aircraft’s flight profile to minimize these effects. Recent flight testing, conducted in collaboration with leading research institutions, underscores the potential of these advancements in ensuring that future supersonic aircraft operate within acceptable noise levels, promising a quieter and more environmentally sustainable era of supersonic flight.
Researchers at Honeywell have dedicated over a decade to studying neural technology’s potential applications in cockpit avionics. Their work revolves around a neural sensing headset cap connected to a computer monitor, which holds the promise of enabling pilots to control aircraft through their thoughts.
For instance, when a pilot wishes to execute a right turn, they simply focus on the illuminated pattern to the right on the computer screen. Using Electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, the neural headset measures the brain’s countless neuron transmissions, translating the pilot’s intention into actionable flight control commands. This innovation allows pilots to associate flashing light patterns on a control panel with specific aircraft controls, and in a notable 2015 flight test, a modified King Air autopilot successfully responded to neural commands, demonstrating the feasibility of neural control in aviation.
Key Differences from Civilian Avionics:
One primary distinction between military and civilian aircraft avionics lies in the stringent environmental standards required for military applications. Military aircraft must operate in extreme conditions, including sand, extreme temperatures, electromagnetic interference (EMI), and exposure to salt fog. Additionally, military avionics often include specialized mission functions such as weapons targeting and surveillance sensors, which are not typically found in civilian aircraft.
In summary, military aircraft avionics represent the pinnacle of technological innovation, serving a critical role in both combat and peacetime operations. As these systems continue to evolve, they enhance the capabilities of military aircraft, ensuring the safety and success of missions in an ever-changing and challenging global landscape.
Open Systems Architecture
Open Systems Architecture (OSA) is becoming a standard in military avionics, promoting modular design and interoperability.
The Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) Consortium is at the forefront of developing open system reference architectures for both military and commercial sensor systems. These architectures emphasize modular design and the use of nonproprietary standards for key interfaces, fostering interoperability and adaptability in avionics.
In the realm of military avionics, the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Consortium has been instrumental in driving open architecture developments. Comprising industry suppliers, customers, and users, FACE focuses on creating open architecture standards and business models that expedite the delivery of new capabilities to military personnel. The F-35 avionics program exemplifies the advantages of open architecture, with over 1,700 components, including network-interfaced units and integrated chassis, supporting various functions. Open architectures like this promise more efficient technology refresh cycles and enhanced capabilities for military aircraft. Furthermore, software plays an increasingly pivotal role, enabling new capabilities to be added without necessitating hardware changes, thanks to standards like FACE, which establish common interfaces for broader industry adoption.
Security in flight systems
Security is emerging as a paramount concern in flight systems. Harris, for instance, has made security a pivotal component of its open systems architectures, prioritizing standardized interfaces, leveraging commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, and investing in high-speed cryptography. They’ve also delved into multi-level security, encompassing both multiple independent levels of security (MILS) and multilevel security (MLS).
While specific security requirements vary among customers, the industry is collectively addressing the growing threat landscape through certified cryptographic solutions.Cybersecurity measures, including assessment tools, vulnerability mitigation, and malware detection techniques, protect avionics systems from cyber threats.
The proliferation of IoT devices has opened new avenues for cyberattacks, encompassing hacking, identity theft, disruptions, and various malicious activities that can impact individuals, infrastructure, and economies. Furthermore, even military IoT networks must confront a spectrum of threats, including physical infrastructure attacks, energy-based assaults, radiofrequency channel jamming, power source vulnerabilities, electronic eavesdropping, and malware from adversaries. Addressing these threats is paramount to ensure the integrity and reliability of aviation systems.
In August 2021, the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base awarded contracts to Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. as part of the Trusted and Elastic Military Platforms and Electronic Warfare (TEMPEST) program, with a shared budget of up to $200 million. The program, specifically the Agile and Resilient Platform Architectures (ARPA) component, aims to develop, prototype, and demonstrate cybersecurity technologies to safeguard avionics in Air Force weapon systems.
These cybersecurity technologies will encompass assessment and testing tools, vulnerability mitigation and cyber-hardening techniques, malware detection, and adaptive response methods. Furthermore, the project will focus on securing open-systems and agile-architecture platforms. The initiative also seeks to enhance the resiliency of avionics throughout their lifecycle, from hardening legacy systems to designing state-of-the-art security measures for future avionics systems. Ultimately, the program aims to create a digital architecture that leverages digital engineering, software factories, and advanced avionics technologies to enhance the capabilities of existing and future Air Force weapon systems.
The Avionics Market was valued at $46,700 Million in 2022 and is estimated to grow from $50,400 Million in 2023 to $66,300 Million by 2027 at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth
Rate) of 7.3% during forecast period. Avionics comprises of all the electronic components in an
aircraft that manage operations and secure passenger safety. Advanced avionics are being
developed to increase the aircraft’s efficiency and safety by enhancing situational awareness. The
adoption of avionics is driven by the demand for integration of sophisticated avionics onboard modern aircraft, thereby saving weight and reducing operational and maintenance costs for end users
The aerospace avionics market growth can be attributed to the rising demand for air travel and rising economies in the Middle East and Asia Pacific. The increasing demand for system upgrade of the existing fleet in developed regions is also contributing to the market growth. The increasing per capita income and growing GDP of Asia Pacific have increased the preference toward air travel.
The Military Aircraft Avionics Market was at a value of USD 33. 52 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow to USD 43. 87 billion by 2027 with a CAGR of 4. 52% during the forecast period (2022-2027).
With the growth in defense spending by several nations across the globe, the industry has witnessed several procurement and development activities for military aircraft in the last few years. This factor is currently driving the growth of the associated avionics market.
The development of new and advanced avionics is generating the need to replace the old avionics systems in the older generation military aircraft. These new avionics suites support the aircraft to meet the newer generation battlefield requirements like long distance target detection and tracking, stealth and electronic warfare defense. Therefore, to stay abreast of adversaries and allied military forces are devising modernization plans to upgrade the avionics suites in the military aircraft.
Furthermore, several countries are developing and procuring next generation military aircraft to modernize and expand their fleets. This is also expected to drive the investments towards next generation avionics and mission computers.
By platform, the avionics market has been segmented into commercial aviation, military aviation, business jets & general aviation, and helicopters. Among these, the commercial aviation segment is projected to be the fastest-growing during the forecast period. Manufacturers are currently focusing on avionics components to develop products that are more reliable, accurate, and efficient. Continuous improvements in software technology have modified the human-machine interface of avionics systems. It has become more user-friendly and can automate a wide variety of in-flight tasks, thereby reducing the workload of the flight crew to a large extent.
Restraint: Stringent design regulations pertaining to avionics
Avionics is a vital part of the flight deck and, hence, the safety of the crew and passengers is
dependent on the proper functioning of the system and its subcomponents. Thus, the systems are
designed as per the guidelines formulated by the aviation regulatory authorities and their
performance and accuracy are required to be validated prior to obtaining installation type certification. For instance, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that for displaying the Primary Flight Information (PFI), there should be at least two independent displays to provide information pertaining to the attitude, airspeed, altitude, and heading (direction) to the pilot, and these displays must be arranged in the basic T arrangement, and the horizon reference line should be at least 3.25 inches wide for integrated displays. Nevertheless, the certification process requires significant R&D expenditure for ensuring compliance with existing regulations and is deemed lengthy and capitalintensive. This may restrain the growth of the avionics industry.
The navigation segment is estimated to account for the largest share of the avionics market
during the forecast period Based on application, the avionics market is segmented into payload & mission management, traffic & collision management, communication, power & data management, weather detection, flight management, electronic flight display. The Navigation segment is estimated to lead the avionics market during the forecast period due to the enhancement of the existing aircraft fleet by major airline players with the latest electronic equipment for better safety and fuel efficiency.
The flight management system market will account for approximately 20% of the aerospace avionics industry revenue by 2025 with the introduction of low-cost airlines and increasing demand for new aircraft from the Middle East and Asia Pacific
The surveillance system market will witness significant growth in the aerospace avionics market with the advancements of existing systems and new aircraft deliveries. The industry players are engaged in developing highly integrated surveillance systems to address the emerging requirements of the next-generation avionics.
By system, the avionics market has been segmented into hardware and software. Among these, the software segment is projected to witness the highest growth rate during the forecast period. In software, a real-time operating system (RTOS) has a central role in safety and security. Safety-critical systems go through a rigorous development, testing, and verification process before being certified for use. For avionics software and other airborne systems, the de-facto standard for software development is RTCA/DO-178C Software Considerations in Airborne Systems.
North America is dominating the military aircraft avionics market in terms of revenue in 2021, owing to the large-scale procurement of military aircraft by the United States. The United States is the largest military spender in the world with USD 801 billion in military expenditure in 2021. The US Air Force has spent the past four years improving the fleet mission-capable rates which reached its lowest point (below 70%) in 2018. However, the rate is still around 72% as of December 2021. This has raised concerns and has pushed the government to fill the gaps through new aircraft procurement as well as to upgrade mission-related systems in the existing fleet.
The US Air Force operates one of the oldest aircraft fleets compared to its adversary Russia and China. Fielding of new aircraft has slowed the increase in fleet age, but the US Air Force is not buying enough new aircraft to sustain its force structure at its current size. The average age of some fleets is high, at 45 years for bombers, 49 years for tankers, and 29 years for fighter/attack aircraft. Also, the US armed forces are upgrading its existing fleet with advanced avionics to support a wide range of missions.
For instance, In February 2022, the USAF finally announced its plan to upgrade its 608 F-16 Block 40 and 50 in one of the largest modernization initiatives in history. The F-16 Fighter jets will get up to 22 modifications that will increase the lethality of aircraft and ensure that the fourth-generation fighter can confront current and future threats. The 22 modifications include an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, new cockpit displays, a new mission computer, and a new database. Such investments of the countries in North America to enhance their aerial capabilities is anticipated to propel the growth of the market.
Some of the major participants of the aerospace avionics market are Cobham Plc, Thales Group, Honeywell, L3 Harris Corporation, Safran S.A., and Raytheon, Airbus S.A.S, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, BAE systems, Saab AB, Honeywell International. Industry participants are involved in long-term agreements with airline operators to increase their market share. In May 2019, Boeing announced its agreement with Jet Aviation and HK Bellawings Jet for deliveries of Jeppesen Operator and Jeppesen JetPlanner Pro digital solutions. This avionics system will enhance efficiency, safety, and conveyance of operators. This business contract is expected to last for five years.
In June 2021, Universal Avionics in Tucson, Ariz., announced that it had been selected by Mid-Canada Mod Center to provide an avionics upgrade for their Dassault Falcon 50 long-range business jets. MC2 chose the InSight retrofit flight deck solution to modernize the aircraft with NextGen capabilities for FANS 1/A+ and Data Comm, and to replace the legacy CRT displays.
The Falcon 50 InSight installation includes four UA EFI-1040 LCD Displays, two UNS-1Fw SBAS-FMSs, and two Touch EFIS Control Display Units (ECDU). The installation also includes UA’s Data Communications package with the UniLink UL-801 Communications Management Unit with ATN B1 capability, and KAPTURE Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) with internal RIPS. FAA and Transport Canada STCs for the first installation phase are expected in the Fourth Quarter of 2021. A planned Phase 2 of the installation will add engine interface.
The InSight Display System offers the Falcon 50 a new set of capabilities including 3D SVS, advanced interactive digital maps, embedded electronic charting, high-resolution airport maps, intuitive control and input for enhanced crew interactivity, and increased reliability. InSight also offers lowered aircraft weight, an extremely high MTBF/MTBUR system design, and the ability to predict maintenance costs with reliable, state-of-the-art hardware.
Military aircraft Avionics upgrades
The importance of Avionics is also magnified in Airborne Early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft that provides a real-time picture of friendly, neutral, and hostile air and maritime activity under all kinds of weather and above all kinds of terrain. E-3 AWACS is the most widely used AWACS system in use today, used by the USAF, NATO, the RAF, French Air Force, Saudi Arabia, and the Japan Air Self-Defence Force.
The NATO E-3 fleet on an avionics upgrade system called DRAGON to move to a modern glass cockpit. The DRAGON modifications replace the existing DMS Global Positioning System (GPS) Integrated Navigation System (GINS) with a modern Flight Management System (FMS) that will accommodate new capabilities including Mode 5 IFF and Joint Mission Planning System (JMPS). The cockpit upgrades will also include weather radar that predicts wind shear, an enhanced ground proximity warning system, improved engine warnings, a digital flight deck audio distribution system, and crew alert system, according to the DRAGON program offi ce release at Hanscom.
In May 2021, Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, announced that the Raytheon Technologies business had been selected by Lockheed Martin to NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft. The X-59 research aircraft presented a unique avionics challenge for Collins Aerospace as the supersonic jet has no forward-looking windows for pilots to look through.
“The X-59 is expected to create a noise about as loud as a car door closing instead of a sonic boom when it breaks the sound barrier,” explains Dave Schreck, vice president and general manager for Military Avionics and Helicopters at Collins Aerospace. “This aircraft has the ability to shape the future of supersonic travel and our avionics are helping make this revolutionary aircraft a reality. We’re excited as we count down the days until we see it fly.”
In the world of military avionics, Military & Aerospace Electronics’ John Keller reports that the U.S. Navy is asking industry experts to weigh-in on a plan to upgrade flight-control software in Navy attack jets to reduce the risk of pilots crashing into the ground on difficult missions. “Navy officials want to compile a sense-of-the-industry on a plan to upgrade the avionics of the Navy Boeing F/A-18C/D light-attack bomber to enhance the aircraft’s ability to prevent controlled flight into terrain when the pilot is fixated on a target during an attack dive; spatially disoriented; loses consciousness; or suffers degraded abilities due to oxygen deprivation,” Keller writes.
He continues, “The F/A-18C/D light-attack bomber has a quad-redundant digital fly-by-wire flight-control system that converts pilot and aircraft inputs to flight control actuator commands from surface actuators, air data sensors, pilot controls and displays, software, and the quad-channel flight control electronic set (FCES) subsystem.”
Avionics are at the forefront of aviation’s transformation, enhancing safety, efficiency, and situational awareness. From commercial airliners to military jets, these systems are integral to aviation’s future. As avionics continue to evolve, the aviation industry will reap the benefits of enhanced safety, automation, and connectivity, delivering a better flying experience for all. Together, these advancements are ushering in a new era of aviation that prioritizes safety, efficiency, and performance in both commercial and military contexts.