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(Image courtesy: Abaco Systems Inc.)

Abaco’s new avionics platforms transfer data up to 40Gbps with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity

Abaco Systems Inc. is launching a new family of avionics devices for test and simulation, development, and dataloading that feature Thunderbolt 3 interfaces, providing an alternative to traditional ExpressCard, PC Cards, Ethernet, and USB connections. The new portable, high-speed, low-latency avionics devices – RCEI-830A-TB and QPM-1553-TB – are designed for a broad range of avionics applications and include Thunderbolt 3-to-PMC/XMC interfacing with ARINC 429 and MIL-STD-1553 protocols.

Thunderbolt 3 is a USB-C/USB 3.1 based connection that transfers data up to 40 gigabytes per second (Gbps) with maximum channel density. It has the capability to connect to 5K displays and can connect to up to two 4K displays with one connection point.

“Increasingly, our customers are finding that their existing portable avionics equipment is becoming obsolete,” says Peter Thompson, vice president of Product Management at Abaco Systems. “Modern PCs and laptops rarely feature the ExpressCard or [PC Card] interfaces on which our customers have historically relied. While USB and Ethernet theoretically provide alternatives, their inherent latency limits real-time interaction with data, and channel density is limited.”



“Beyond this, recent government-mandated security requirements have presented a challenge to avionics data loader customers in that migrating to newer operating systems and hardware creates significant technical obstacles,” continues Thompson.

“Thunderbolt 3 is rapidly becoming the de facto standard for peripherals: 40Gpbs is the fastest PC connection available,” concludes Thompson. “These new products, combined with Abaco’s proven, flexible and easy-to-use software provide new levels of performance and usability, and deliver invaluable tools for any organization involved in bus analysis/simulation, system integration or flight-line – including data loading and maintenance, repair, and overhaul – and will provide a clear path forward for our customers.”


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All of Abaco Systems’ Thunderbolt 3-equipped products have rugged, all-aluminum housings along with Power-over-Thunderbolt 3 to maximize portability. Both of the new avionics systems are backwards compatible with many existing Abaco avionics devices in its support for Abaco’s feature-rich application programming interface (API) and BusTools user interface (UI).

  • The RCEI-830A-TB supports up to 16 Tx and 16 Rx ARINC channels with a range of flexible input/output (I/O) configurations. It provides complete, integrated databus functionality for ARINC 429, ARINC 615-3 dataloader, ARINC 717, ARINC 575 and selected 2-wire, 32-bit protocols.  Configurations with ARINC 717 provide support for both ARINC 717 HBP (Harvard Bi-Phase) and BPRZ (Bi-Polar Return to Zero) across a range of bit rate/sub-frame combinations.
  • The QPM-1553-TB provides high levels of performance, flexibility and interface density for MIL-STD-1553A/B. Standard features include 1 MByte of RAM per channel, real-time bus playback, aperiodic message insertion, error injection/detection, conditional BC branching, 64-bit, 25 nanosecond message timetagging, and "one-shot" BC operation.

Abaco Systems is planning on introducing additional Thunderbolt 3 products in the near future. The company is based in Huntsville, Alabama.


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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at