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Barriers Fall Between Development and Deployed Systems

To help speed and smooth the journey from development to deployment, board and box-level vendors have rolled out a variety of solutions that link the two phases.

JEFF CHILD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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Now that defense budgets and schedules are both tighter than ever the stakes are raised for military system designers get from development phase to deployment phase as quickly and as smoothly as possible. An ability to do so can make or break the chances of a contract win-especially when complete working demos are often the requirement. To help the situation a number of box-level system developers have crafted development systems designed specifically to be aligned with the all the same key aspects of the final deployed system. Starting with VPX, the mix of these system solutions has broadened to other standard architectures-like CompactPCI and FMC. Board-level carriers have also emerged to accomplish the same things. Meanwhile a variety of more application-specific development systems have joined the game.

Marrying Development and Deployment

For its part Extreme Engineering Solutions (X-ES) was among the earliest to marry box-level development systems with comparable deployable systems. The company provides development platforms designed to enable developers to start their development quickly with a pre-integrated system. Since many VPX systems are deployed, X-ES provides development platforms that accept conduction-cooled boards in an air-cooled lab chassis. Rear Transition Modules (RTMs) can be used to allow developers to quickly and easily prototype system I/O.

An example along those lines is X-ES's XPand6200 Series Development Kit. The kit breaks out the XPand6200 Series' I/O to development-friendly commercial connectors and includes power supplies for powering the unit from standard 120 VAC wall outlets. The Development Kit includes the XPand1508 I/O breakout stations. The XPand1508 supports two standard VITA 46.10 RTM slots for accessing the I/O from the corresponding 3U VPX modules installed in the XPand6200 Series. The Development Kit includes the cables needed to connect the XPand6200 Series to the XPand1508 (Figure 1). These cables also break out some commonly used high-speed interfaces directly to standard commercial connectors.

Figure 1
The XPand1508 I/O breakout stations support two standard VITA 46.10 RTM slots for accessing the I/O from the corresponding 3U VPX modules installed in the XPand6200 Series.

Creative Electronic Systems (CES) meanwhile addresses the development to deployment issue with solutions like its ROCK-2: a rugged, modular, open-architecture, pre-qualified, application-ready, safety-certifiable, featured avionic system. The system takes an approach where basic functions such as I/O or video/graphics are designed on carriers while the SBC function is designed on XMC. The XMC are then installed on the carriers saving space but also offering easy, low-cost system upgradability. That gives ROCK-2 offers a really short time to mission. The transition from air-cooled laboratory to conduction-cooled airborne environment is straightforward thanks to the cross-compatible laboratory and airborne chassis. In fact, software engineers and system integrators can start working with ROCK-2 out-of-the-box using the very same boards.

The OpenVPX compliant and 3U VPX based, ROCK-2 adopts an Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) architecture. This makes it well suited for airborne applications with a central mission computer managing several functions of different Design Assurance Level (DAL). ROCK-2 is built upon safety-certifiable building blocks and can be optionally delivered with all the documentation, certification evidences and artifacts required for a DO-178C/DO-254 certification up to DAL-C. That said, ROCK-2 is not limited to safety-certifiable applications and is affordable to a wide variety of applications according to CES.

Embedded Software Development Solutions

Another trend is the emergence of more powerful embedded software development tools to speed along military system projects. Abaco Systems this summer for example announced AXIS DataView, an innovative extension to the company's AXIS software development environment (Figure 2). DataView is unique in the market, and allows system developers to rapidly develop graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for their embedded applications deployed on Abaco Systems hardware. Designed for displaying data and adding controls to signal- and image processing applications as well as any system control or communications application, DataView significantly reduces the time, cost and risk of developing sophisticated software solutions and speeds time-to-deployment.

Figure 2
Designed for displaying data in signal- and image processing applications DataView reduces the time of developing sophisticated software solutions and speeds time-to-deployment.

By addressing the development costs associated with developing and porting GUIs to multiple platforms while also addressing performance overhead issues DataView makes adding a GUI to a broad range of applications both practical and valuable. According to Abaco Systems In-house tests performed by their engineers show that, using DataView, a reduction of over 90 percent in the lines of code required to create a typical signal generator GUI or signal processing GUI is achievable when compared with alternative approaches. In addition to development time and cost savings the DataView tool creates code that is considerably easier to maintain and enhance.

Building Blocks for Avionic Prototyping

Among the most interesting development aids from Curtiss Wright Defense Solutions is an approach that is aimed specifically for avionics systems. Curtiss-Wright "AviBlocks" are designed as one common architecture, addressing multiple avionics requirements and a Joint Development Approach that supports developers through prototyping, definition, qualification and long-tail production. The four key elements are the Rugged Mount FDAU, Multirole Airborne Recorders Flight Data Management FDAU/DMU/QAR and Custom Remote Electronic Units DCU/RIU.

Using those, avionics developers who have the ability rapidly prototype and adapt to evolving requirements, are able to quickly validate multiple design iterations in hardware, dramatically reducing program risks and costs. AviBlocks technology is an evolution of the Curtiss Wright Acra KAM-500 data acquisition system. Within the AviBlocks framework, the extensive collection of KAM-500 interface modules act as "Avionics building Blocks" which allow for rapid prototyping of new systems as well as low risk development of production units. According to the company, the AviBlocks paradigm retains the adaptability of the KAM-500 system allowing unique specification FDAUs, MRSs, DMUs, DCUs, and RIUs to be realized without the costs typically associated with new bespoke developments.

From One Carrier to Another

Exemplifying the carrier board approach to linking development and deployment, Pentek's latest offering includes new members to its FlexorSet series of preconfigured solutions: The FlexorSet Model 5973-313 for 3U VPX and Model 7070-313 for PCIe platforms consist of an FMC installed on either of two Flexor FMC carriers with Virtex-7 FPGAs. The Flexor Model 3312 FMC features four 250 MHz, 16-bit A/Ds and two 800 MHz, 16-bit D/As, which are supported with matching digital down converters (DDCs) and interpolation filters as intellectual property (IP) installed in the FPGA. These FlexorSet combinations include the most commonly required IP functions for data acquisition and signal generation applications. Because of these pre-configured functions and supporting software, our customers can start capturing and generating signals within minutes after opening the box. And developers can use the Model 7070-313 PCIe platforms for development and then use the Model 5973-313 3U VPX platform in the final deployed system (Figure 3).

Figure 3
Military system developers can use the Model 7070-313 PCIe carrier (left) for development and then use the Model 5973-313 3U VPX carrier (right) in the final deployed system.

Each FlexorSet is a multichannel, high-speed data converter sub-system with highly programmable analog I/O signal interface suitable for connection to HF or IF ports of a communications or radar system, and supporting signal bandwidths up to 100 MHz. The built-in data capture and playback features offer an ideal turnkey solution as well as a platform for developing and deploying custom FPGA-processing IP. Each includes four 250 MHz, 16-bit A/Ds using two TI ADS42LB69s. A single TI DAC5688 provides a digital upconverter and two 800 MHz, 16-bit D/As. Four banks of DDR3 SDRAM provide a generous 4 GB of storage for data processing. In addition to supporting PCIe Gen. 3 as a native interface, the Model 5973-313 and Model 7070-313 include optional copper and optical gigabit serial connections to the Virtex-7 FPGA for custom I/O.

Both FlexorSets come pre-configured with a suite of built-in functions for data capture, synchronization, time tagging and formatting, all tailored and optimized for the FMC and carrier. This IP enables high performance capture and delivery of data to provide an ideal turn-key signal interface for radar, communications or general data acquisition applications, eliminating the integration effort typically left for the user when integrating the FMC and carrier.

Abaco Systems
Huntsville, AL
(866) 652-2226
www.abaco.com

CES (Creative Electronic Systems)
Geneva, Switzerland
+41 (0)22 884 51 00
www.ces-swap.com

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions
Ashburn, VA
(703) 779-7800
www.cwcdefense.com

Extreme Engineering Solutions
Middleton, WI.
(608) 833-1155
www.xes-inc.com

Pentek
Upper Saddle River, NJ.
(201) 818-5900
www.pentek.com

 

 

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