UAV Applications Challenge the Limits of Embedded Computing Technologies
- Created: Wednesday, 01 August 2012
VPX – High-Speed Signal Processing
The range of UAV payloads, regardless of the size or mission objective of the airframe, can call for a combination of communications, environmental sensors, high-resolution radar, streaming video imaging systems, and weaponry. Situational intelligence is paramount, so the ability to download compressed, live video or other information to mobile or portable ground equipment is a primary design goal. VPX has become an ideal platform for this type of data-intensive system that demands image compression and bandwidth as well as highfrequency processing in a highly reliable fabric solution.
VPX enables higher-performance processing per slot but also higher-speed interconnects between processing and I/O elements using PCIe, 10GbE or sRIO. These interconnects provide up to 10 Gb/s performance, and VPX systems can achieve greater than 5 Gb/s using a number of different serial fabric technologies. An example of how VPX is ideal for video streaming applications is that it can be integrated with ITU-T H.263, H.264 (MPEG-4 part 10) and JPEG2000 CODECs to provide very efficient image compression. The H.264 CODEC is particularly optimized for streaming and offers the capability to trade-off image quality or compression as the available bandwidth changes. This flexibility makes using VPX with this CODEC well-suited for UAV video payloads that must support a number of data link options and operational scenarios.
MicroTCA – Rugged, High-Bandwidth Requirements
UAVs used in longer range missions typically means that they will operate at higher altitudes, and these same UAVs may have requirements for extended loitering capabilities, making ruggedization and reliability in terms of power, weight and thermal management a primary design consideration. Rugged air-cooled MicroTCA (MTCA.1), hardened MicroTCA (MTCA.2), and conduction-cooled MicroTCA (MTCA.3) leverage the ANSI/VITA 47 specification to meet the increased environmental requirements of longer mission UAVs.
The ability to re-use and harden the popular AMC small form factor to create a rugged MicroTCA system gives designers access to a cost-effective solution with multiple applications on the same platform. By accommodating a high number of multicore AMCs and allowing a tight coupling of processors over high-speed backplane communication links, this type of MicroTCA implementation is well suited for radar and real-time image processing, or voice, data and video applications in single-channel or dual-channel architectures. High light ing its bandwidth capabilities, MicroTCA offers the ability to leverage as many as 21 high-speed serial connections on the backplane, each delivering bandwidth of 3.125 Gb/s. Depending on the airframe or its ground control system, an extensive range of MicroTCA-based communications bandwidth capacities is available ranging from 40 Gb/s to >1Tb/s. If the data processing performance environment is approaching the demands of 10 Gigabit Ethernet, MicroTCA may be an optimal choice.