The electric systems used on spacecraft, artificial satellites and aircraft are called avionics.
Communications, navigation and the display/management of multiple systems make up avionics. This also includes the dozens of systems fitted to aircraft to perform individual functions such as a police helicopter searchlight.
Avionics in most aircraft will be upgraded several times during the life of the airframe. This makes avionics one of the most important sectors in the aerospace industry.
Pilots now have an unprecedented amount of information available at their fingertips. Electronic flight instruments use innovative techniques to determine aircraft attitude, speed and altitude, presenting a wealth of information in one or more integrated presentations. A suite of cockpit information systems provides pilots with data about aircraft position, planned route, engine health and performance, as well as surrounding weather, traffic and terrain.
Advanced avionics systems can automatically perform many tasks that pilots and navigators previously did by hand. 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 in 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.
Avionics engineers provide system support for all communication, navigation and guidance systems and perform testing to ensure that those systems are working properly. There are 3 types of avionics engineers:
- Systems Engineers
- Software Engineers
- Electrical Engineers
The EE’s normally design computers which aren’t too different from a PC, whereas system engineers are the ones who have the big picture. They understand how the various boxes work together in an aircraft.
Software engineers have become prominent in recent years. They implement the software and write verification tests to test to make sure the software meets the requirements. Software can be done in a high-level language (Ada, C/C++, Java), but is often a model-based language such as Simulink. With MBD (Model-Based Development), the engineer draws a diagram of how the software is supposed to work. It’s similar to the schematics that electrical engineers used to draw.
Want to know more? Tonex offers Avionic Systems Engineering Crash Course, a 4-day course that covers a comprehensive training of theories, technical, certification requirements, and the technologies applied in the current and future avionic systems.
Additionally, Tonex offers another 45 courses in Aerospace & Defense Engineering, including:
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