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Aircraft Computers and Electronic Systems

In a modern aircraft, the most essential thing may be the inflight computer. This is because modern
aircraft rely heavily on technology for operation unlike their older counterparts. Most modern aircraft
today also use what is called a “Fly by wire” system. This is where the pilots inputs do not directly go to
the plane, but it passes through a computer first.

Task 1 (LO1, P2):

1)

The layout of a Fiber optic data transfer system has 3 main components. These components make sure
that the correct input is received, and the correct output is sent out.

Input:

When a signal is sent to the input, a small device called the source driver controls a source. This source is
generally a very small laser or an LED. This source flashes in increments to pass on a signal. The whole
system of the source and the driver is commonly known as the transmitter.

Transmission

The transmission happens through the fiber optic cable. This cable is made of glass fibers as the light
must be transmitted through a clear medium. The large downside of using glass fibers is that the fiber
could snap into 2 pieces if not handled with care.

Output:

The output, like the input consists of 2 parts. The Photodetector and the amplifier. The photodetector is
a very basic imaging sensor which detects if the led is active or not. When it receives a signal, it passes it
on to the amplifier. The job of the amplifier is (from the name), to take the signal from the photo
detector and amplify it to the electronic output.

Diagram depicting how a Fiber optic system is laid out [1]


2)

Advantages:

The advantages of using fiber optics as your preferred method of data transmission are:

- Glass fiber is less likely to quickly degrade when compared to copper wires
- Installation and handling costs for fiber are relatively low
- EMI will not affect data going through this mode of transmission
- There will be no voltage or grounding problems therefore there is no need for additional
preventative equipment
- They are generally smaller and lighter so they will save weight on an aircraft and take less space
- They can be longer than copper wires before losing effect
- The signal will degrade less

Disadvantages:

- Specialized staff are required for any maintenance needed.


- You can only work on a fiber using point to point working
- Expensive instruments are required to modify the wires
- Joining the fibers and splicing is also very time consuming

Precautions:

- People working with glass fiber face a hazard as glass fiber can be dangerous if not handled carefully
- Some lasers used for optical fiber cables may be able to blind or damage the eye.
- Food or drinks cannot be kept near the work area or else accidental ingestion may lead to internal
hemorrhaging, if not detected early enough can lead to death.
- Workplace must be of a dark color (preferably black) as it provides a contrast to see where shards
of glass are
- Disposable aprons must be worn so contact between engineer and the glass fiber is minimized
- Appropriate PPE must always be worn.

3)

Optical data buses use the concept of TIR (Total Internal Reflection). This is when the angle of incidence
is greater than the critical angle. At this angle, the light ray bounces right back off. In an optical fiber
cable, this type of reflection happens continuously until the light reaches its destination. The source of
the light in the case of the optical fiber is a laser or a LED. The core of an optical fiber has a very high
refractive index and the cladding has a very low refractive index. This is to make sure that the signal has
a long range.

[2]
Task 2 (LO1, P3):

Format:

The ARINC 429 Format sends single words as a signal. Each word is a single 32-bit value. The bits in each
32-bit value are split into 5 zones.

01111111 00100000 00001011 11111011


ZONE5 ZONE4 ZONE3 ZONE2 ZONE1

Zone 1:

This is the parity bit, the bit that determines if the signal has been damaged during transmission. ARINC
429 generally uses odd numbers during transmission so this specific bit should always be triggered.

Zone 2:

These are Bits 30-31, and these determine whether the data is valid or not. They can give the outputs of
the following:

NO – Normal Operation

FT – Functional Test

FW – Failure Warning

NCD – No Computer Data

(+/-/North/East/South/West)

Zone 3:

These bits contain the data being transmitted and may be the most essential part of the whole
transmission.

Zone 4:

These bits contain information which contain SDI (Source/Destination Identifiers). They may also contain
information saying which subsystem the information is from.

Zone 5:

They are the Identification of the type of data being transmitted.


Specifications:

In an ARINC 429 system, the bus communication is via a simplex twisted shielded pair data bus. The
standard it follows is Mark 33 Digital Information Transfer System Bus. For the hardware of the system,
it consists of one transmitter which is connected to a maximum of 20 receivers through one twisted pair
wire. Data can only be transmitted in one direction as bidirectional communication would require 2
channels. The LRU (Line replaceable units) devices are often connected in a bus drop topology or a star
topology. It is possible for LRUs to contain multiple transmitters and receivers for communication on
different buses. This simple architecture means that most of the wiring is point to point which makes it
reliable and easily maintainable in case of a failure. The transmission speed of data in this system ranges
from 12.5kHz all the way to 100kHz.

Drop-Bus topology [3]

Star Topology [4]

Operation:

During the operation of an ARINC 429 system, specific standards must be followed so the signals can be
decoded when received. Every channel connected to the system must be considered to run at a specific
speed. As I mentioned earlier this speed is between 12.5-10kHz. When the system is in operation, the
words are sent through pulses. When a word is sent through the system, there must be a pause of at
least 4 bit times. This pause acknowledges the separation between the words.
Interfacing:

All computer systems have an interface for a user to interact with. In the case of ARINC 429, the
interfacing uses 4 different output systems with one system dedicated to monitoring.

Flight control computer (FCC):

This computer is a type of output. This gives the pilot information on the positions of the control
surfaces and overall maintenance information of the aircraft. All the information is output from the FCC
to the Multi-Function Display (MFD).

All Failure monitoring information output is sent to the EICAS (Engine Indicating and Crew Alert System)
system.

Air Data Computer (ADC):

The ADC is responsible for outputting information related to the air around the aircraft. This includes
and is not limited to; Altitude, Angle of Attack, Airspeed, Temperature etc.

When the information as been outputted, it is sent to the FCC which schedules the information.

Information from the ADC is also sent to the TMC (Thrust Management system)

Information is also sent to the FMC (Flight management computer) for display.

There is also an output that goes to the EICAS system incase of a sensor failure such as a pitot tube.

Internal Reference System (IRS):

This system uses an Accelerometer to detect slide slip and yawing motion. This information is then sent
to the TMC in order to maintain a level, steady flight. All Roll, Pitch and Yaw information is sent to the
FCC so it can control the autopilot. Information is also sent to the FMC for displaying the information on
the FMD. Failure monitoring information is output to the EICAS system.

Thrust Management Computer (TMC):

Information received to the TMC is forwarded on to the FMC to indicate values such as Engine pressure
Ratio, Exhaust Gas Temperature onto the MFD. Failure information is also output to the EICAS system
such as a N1 RPM high or Oil pressure low.

Flight Management Computer (FMC):

This outputs all its information to avionics equipment that uses FMC as a source of information to
further output it to the user.

EICAS (Engine Indicating & Crew Alerting System):

This system receives no outputs unlike the others yet is there for monitoring purposes in case of a
failure within the aircraft.
Task 3 (LO1, M1):

Format:

Instead of sending packages of Words like older ARINC 429 systems, the ARINC 629 system uses sends
data grouped into messages. All messages can have different lengths. Just like ARINC 429, after each
message there is a 4-bit gap. In this protocol, the maximum message length is 31 word-strings long. In a
word string, there is a label word followed by up to 256 data words.

Label Bits 1-3: These Bits are used for synchronization; these are used for the sync pulse. This is a high to
low pulse where the first 1.5 bit is high and the last 1.5 bit is low.

Label Bits 4-15: This Label field uniquely identifies the parameters being transmitted in every data word
in the string.

Label Bits 16-19: Channel Identification to differentiate between the different LRUs inside the system.

Label Bit 20: This parity bit is kept being odd.

Data Bit 1-3: These Bits are used for synchronization; these are used for the sync pulse. This is a high to
low pulse where the first 1.5 bit is high and the last 1.5 bit is low.

Data Bit 4-19: This is where the Data resides.

Data Bit 20: This Parity bit includes the sync pattern when acting as a data bit.

Specification:

The bus architecture used is time division multiplex in order to save cables on modern lighter weight
aircraft compared to older aircraft. The encoding standard used on this aircraft is bipolar, doublets
Manchester. The coupling method is current, and the media uses 2 twisted shielded pairs of wires. The
data bit rate on this standard is fixed at 2 megabits per second going through a grand total of 120
terminals.

Operation:

During operation of the ARINC 629 data bus protocol, the first step is for the system to perform PSSP
(Pre synchronization synchronization pulse). This is the pre sync period before the actual
synchronization which happens with the label information. This synchronization is necessary in ARINC
629 as it uses the time division multiplex architecture. After the sync period, the data messages are sent
ahead through the multiplexer. Like an ARINC 429 system, between every message is a 4 bit time gap
where they are separated.
Signal Transmission:

In an ARINC 629, The transmission is done through the time division multiplex bus architecture. When in
operation, all the input signals are sent to the multiplexer. The multiplexer sorts them so after every set
number of bits, the source changes. This allows for multiple sources to send signals through just one
data bus. After the transmission media through the twisted shielded cables, the signal is passed onto the
demultiplexer where the values of the individual signals are decoded and sent to their appropriate
destinations.

Interfaces:

The ARINC 629 data bus uses the following as parts:

- Data Bus Cable


- Current-mode couplers
- Stub cables

The LRUs in the system include:

- Serial Interface Module


- Terminal Controllers

2)

MIL-STD-1553 ARINC 429 ARINC 629


Bus Architecture Time division multiplex Simplex point to point Time division multiplex
Encoding Bipolar Manchester II Bipolar, return to zero Bipolar doublets Manchester
Transmission & coupling Voltage, direct, transformer Voltage direct connection Current coupling
Media Shielded twisted wire pair Shielded twisted wire pair Shielded twisted wire pair
Data bit rate 1Mbps 12-14.5kbps 2Mbps
HS 100kbps
Effective data rate 800Mbps HS 53kbps 1.6Mbps
# of terminals 1BC+31RT+xM 1TX + 20RC 120

In terms of Bus architecture, the Military standard 1553 and the ARINC 629 are superior as they use the
Time division multiplex system of transmission. This makes them superior because the multiplex
methods break down the weight used by wires in the aircraft.

The media on all 3 of the standards is shared. The shielded pair twisted wire is used so that there is a
back up in case one of the wires is cut loose.

The Data bit rate is the best on the ARINC 629 is the most superior as it is 2Mbps. The 429 is a lot more
slower is it comes in at a maximum of 100 kilobits per second.

ARINC 629 also has the highest number of terminals as it has 120 terminals compared to ARINC 429’s 21
terminals.
Task 4 (LO1, P4):

1)

Software: A software is a set of instructions given to the hardware in the computer. These instructions
are used to achieve specific goals such as performing a calculation.

Decoder: A decoder takes encoded characters (Files may be encoded for protection, Efficiency or for file
format). Decoders may be heavily used in data communications, networking and storage.

Integrated Circuit (IC): An IC, also known as a (micro)chip is a small circuit based on a very small plate of
a semiconductor material such as silicon. These ICs have millions of small resistors, transistors and
capacitors.

Core memory: This type of memory is very old and obsolete, but it was stored using small ferrite cores

Routine: In computing terms, a routine is a piece of code that has to be recalled and executed multiple
times as a program runs.

2)

The first step to a basic computer’s functionality is the Input. This input comes from the user and is
through a program. The data is sent to the Input unit of the computer, which forwards it to the storage
unit along with the Control unit. The control unit then forwards the information to the ALU (Arithmetic
logic unit) where it performs what is required by the user and sends the result back to the storage unit.
Lastly, the storage unit sends the result to the output unit where the information is displayed to the
user.

When abstracted, the 5 basic operations are:

- Inputting
- Processing
- Storing
- Controlling
- Outputting
Basic computer functionality [7]

Task 5 (LO1, M2):

1)

Arithmetic logic unit – The function of the ALU is to do logic and mathematical problems which are sent
in from the control unit. The ALU makes up a significant part of the CPU. The output of the calculation or
problem is always sent over to the primary storage unit.

Control and Processing Unit – This is more commonly used as the CU. This is a crucial part of the CPU as
it directs the flow of data between multiple buses to the ALU and to the GPU. The CU always receives
the input straight from the input unit.

Register section – The register is a very, very small storage that holds data like memory addresses,
instructions and other relevant data that may come in from the CU. The register is so small that it can
only fit in a few bytes but is the fastest form of memory and is used to store the instructions before they
are executed by the ALU.

Memory section – This is more commonly known as the primary storage. This type of memory is volatile
and is seen commonly as RAM inside a household device. This unit receives inputs from the input unit as
well as receives outputs from the ALU. The storage unit also forwards the data to the output unit where
it can be displayed to the user.

Clock functions – A clock inside the computer determines the rate of time by using a quartz crystal that
resonates once per second. This can be used for normal clock functions as well as other functions in
different applications.
SOURCES:

1 - https://www.thefoa.org/tech/ref/appln/datalink.html

2 - https://socratic.org/questions/what-is-an-optical-transmitter

3 - https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Bus-Topology-with-three-stations-Advantages-of-Linear-Bus-
Topology-1-It-is-easy-to_fig58_288180515

4 - https://www.artofarticle.com/network-topology/

5 – https://www.aviationaustralia.aero/

6 - https://www.maxt.com/mxf/arinc_629_spec.html

7 – http://mahamse.blogspot.com/2015/01/basic-computer-organization-computer.html