By Alex Wilson
Aerospace and defense has relied on rugged embedded vehicle mounted computers for many years, but as devices become more mobile, and with increased demand to reduce SWaP (Size, Weight, and Power), ARM-based computers become an interesting alternative. Added to that is the wealth of functionality available in ARM devices that make it a good choice, not only to reduce SWaP in the core CPU, but to reduce overall chipset sizes to a single SoC.
If we look at an example of an ARM-based device, such as the TI OMAP3530, this is a perfect device with which to build a software defined radio for example. It has a high performance, low powered Cortex A8 Core, with numerous IO devices to help connectivity and display. Designed as a mobile device, for example, it supports Android — and the OMAP3530 is also well suited to other areas of A&D such as soldier mounted systems, or remote sensors.
When it comes to avionics systems, aircraft also have a range of devices, from the high end central control computers running multiple applications (such as the common core computer of the Boeing 787) down to remote sensors and actuators that run on 8- or 16-bit processors, and maybe do not need to use an operating system. TI also produces devices targeted at this market, which not only reduce SWaP, but are tested to the required standards for avionics applications, including extended temperature ranges, and using avionics friendly packaging. For example, the OMAP-3530, is available as a OMAP3530-HIREL (PDF Datasheet) with extended temperature ranges from -45C to +105C.
So with this in mind, it is great to see our leading real-time operating system's latest release with support for ARM processors. VxWorks Cert already supports both Freescale and Intel, with certification evidence for RTCA DO-178B (EUROCAE ED-12B) Level A, and has been certified on platforms such as the Eurocopter EC-225 Helicopter, or Cobham900E series Air Refuelling Pods on the A330MRTT. This latest release adds support for ARM Cortex A8 and A9, as well as some updates to the Freescale coverage.
Support for ARM Processors gives our safety-critical customers the choice and flexibility they needed in order to meet the tough SWaP, functionality, and certification requirements for the demanding avionics applications, and I am looking forwards to seeing some great innovations in the next few years!
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