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How Miniaturized Distributed Modular Architecture Advances Avionics Design

  • Magazine Article
  • 19AERP08_01
Published August 01, 2019 by SAE International in United States
  • English

Most of today's collision-avoidance, in-flight-entertainment (IFE), air-to-ground-communications, and other avionics systems employ electronics packaging based on the Aeronautics Radio INC (ARINC) 600 standard. Compared to the older ARINC 404 standard dating from the 1970s that defined “black box” enclosures and racks within aircraft, ARINC 600 specified a Modular Concept Unit (MCU) - the basic building block module for avionics. An ARINC 600 metal enclosure can hold up to 12 MCUs, allowing a lot of computing power to be placed in a centralized “box.” By making it possible to run numerous applications over a real-time network, ARINC 600 enabled “next generation” integrated modular avionics (IMA).

A centralized IMA approach offers several advantages: reduced size and weight, easier maintenance with standardized cards that are easily replaceable, and expanded data transmission speed and bandwidth. However, a centralized big box has some significant limitations, which inspired the development of ARINC 800 series standards at the turn of this century.