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Box-Level Rugged Systems Feed Tech Readiness Needs

Rugged box systems vendors continue to enhance their product offerings with high-integrated solutions for both development and end-application needs.

JEFF CHILD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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The demand for higher levels of system integration is only ramping up among military system developers. That demand has placed rugged box systems squarely in the limelight. No longer are these products a niche or specialty segment of the embedded computing industry, but instead they have become a category of technology just as central as the single board computer.

One force driving demand for these systems is a hunger for complete systems that are at a high TRL (Technology Readiness Level). Motivated by the desire to avoid staking military programs on immature technologies, the DoD is pushing for demonstrations earlier in the program development phase. That means that technologies used also have to show higher TRLs than previously required. All of that has helped fuel demand for prepackaged and prequalified subsystems as primes find themselves without the time or the DoD funding to develop a prototype subsystem themselves. As TRL becomes a more significant part of military requirements, suppliers are crafting solutions with that specifically in mind.

As shown in the product roundup in this section, the latest wave of rugged box systems includes many that are function-specific, whereas others are more generic computing/networking platforms. The emergence of the function-specific type of system doesn't mean that the more general-purpose approach is going away. Most vendors that offer function-specific offerings also continue to develop a robust set of general-purpose pre-integrated systems. Driving the function-specific system demand is the trend among prime contractors toward an ever greater reliance on embedded computing suppliers. They're asking for integration expertise and a level of software development as part of those integration efforts, and more I/O configuration tailored to the application need or a category of applications.

An example of the function-specific type of box-systems are the Curtiss Wright systems used aboard the Global Hawk UAV and its variants. One such variant NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) UAV(Figure 1) achieved a successful first flight late last year by Northrop Grumman operating out of a manufacturing facility in Palmdale, CA. Curtiss-Wright supplies two box-levels systems to aircraft: the Integrated Mission Management Computer (IMMC) that controls the aircraft's flight, and the Advanced Mission Management System (AMMS) that communicates with onboard sensors and relays information to the ground station.

Figure 1
A derivative of the Global Hawk, the NATO AGS unmanned aircraft has the ability to fly for up to 30 hours at a time.

A derivative of the Global Hawk, the NATO AGS unmanned aircraft has the ability to fly for up to 30 hours at a time. The high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) system will perform all-weather, persistent wide-area terrestrial and maritime surveillance in near real-time. The NATO-owned and operated system will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to support a range of NATO missions such as protection of ground troops and civilian populations, border control, maritime safety and humanitarian assistance.

The Rugged Box Systems Roundup and Links to the full data sheets for each product are posted on the roundup part of this section. Click here for the roundup.

 

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