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UAV Applications Challenge the Limits of Embedded Computing Technologies

Computer-on-Modules – SwaP for Constrained Spaces

The small classes of UAV airframes have diverse requirements for payloads and capabilities that can deliver life-saving situational awareness. COM Express Computer-on-Modules (COMs) are excellent solutions due to their small form factor and customizable I/O options. As a widely available, standardsbased solution, COM Express COMs are very cost-effective building blocks that are excellent solutions for the evolving mobile MIL sub-segment.

Further, the Type 6 COM Express® pin-out enables a performance jump from earlier pin-out options and supports the latest graphics architectures needed for advanced video used in surveillance for situational awareness. The addition of native support for the newest display interfaces simplifies carrier board design, and its extensive PCI Express support helps designers migrate from legacy parallel interfaces toward pure serial embedded system designs for higher bandwidth and reduced latency. COM Express COMs enable space-constrained UAV designs to have increased compute, data flow and imaging performance from new integrated chipset and advanced display interfaces that are needed for surveillance UAV upgrade programs.

System-Level Solutions

The availability of pre-validated, multi-mission, rugged computer systems enables the rapid deployment of UAV applications. For example, Kontron’s ApexVX offers a complete OpenVPX-based system-level solution that employs smart software to facilitate the integration of all components required for the early evaluation phase up to long-term deployment. The prequalified Kontron ApexVX provides a proven basis for OEMs who need to develop reliable solutions within strict time and budget limitations.

Successful Deployment

Some problems and delays typically arise when working to configure the software solution for UAV configurations. Kontron has solved this problem by offering a proven suite of software solutions that include its VXFabric™, VXControl™ and PBIT. Kontron VXFabric™ offers hardware-assisted TCP/IP on PCIe for data flow applications to implement efficient inter-board communication at ultra-high speed. VXControl™ uses the onboard controllers interfaced through the standard System Management Bus (SMB) of the VPX backplane for sophisticated Out of Band Health Management. VXControl™ includes system monitoring and control of critical parameters such as temperature, airflow/fans and power supply. Kontron’s PBIT (built-in power on self-test solution) provides an in-depth system diagnosis including all peripheral components across the backplane. Its system-wide test solution can be used from early lab trials up to deployed systems to check whether the computer configuration matches a prerecorded reference. PBIT can also identify and record transient errors in order to increase quality and reliability.

The demands of today’s UAV designs mean a successful deployment must meet basic program requirements along with the typical UAV system specifications such as the ability to process, disseminate and react to vast amounts of multi-sensor data. New VPX SBCs utilizing Intel 3rd generation Core i7 processors along with an appropriate switch and carrier board allows system designers a flexible solution. Working with application-specific FMC modules (XMC, FMC, PMC), this type of solution can be used to interface to other subsystems within the UAV for signal processing, status and control. Additionally, a 3U VPX SATA Storage Module can be used for non-volatile storage. This configuration also offers UAV systems developers a solution for video recording and image processing (to a remote ground station) with real-time processing requirements for automated decision-making.

All of these platforms provide small form factor solutions with the highest level of performance in their class. With mandates that deployed systems remain flexible, upgradable and be able to maintain a long service support life, systems built on proven standards-based building blocks are necessary. New system or technical upgrade systems must meet aggressive time-to-market testing and deployment schedules. OpenVPXbased and other configured solutions using the same proven platform can quickly be achieved and leverage existing work. This provides system engineers a path forward for continuous product enhancement and support for solving the increasing demands and expectations for UAV airframes of today and into the future.

This article was written by RJ McLaren, Product Manager, Kontron (Poway, CA). For more information, visit http://info.hotims.com/40436-500.