A More Secure Connection Between Aircraft Systems Using Fiber Optic Cable

When determining what cabling to use on an aircraft, engineers have a difficult decision to make—fiber or copper cables? In the 80’s and 90’s, copper cabling accounted for 90% of all aircraft wiring. With the 21st century global tech boom, airlines have sought higher data rates and greater bandwidth end-to-end, increasing the demand for fiber optic systems.

In choosing a data transmission system for an aircraft, the focus is primarily on two factors—high fuel efficiency and low operating costs. Fiber optic cabling is proving to have the capacity to offer considerable benefits that accomplish these end goals. The fiber optic approach can provide an aircraft with greater weight savings, higher data rates, and longer transmission distances—here’s how.

On average, fiber optic cables are 50% lighter than copper cables, and can achieve greater data transmission using 25% less space within an aircraft. A single-mode fiber optic cable can transmit the same data as 40 copper cables; meaning 700lbs of cable can be replaced by one 8 lb. fiber optic cable. In designing the Boeing 787, engineers were able to cut 60 miles of wiring by utilizing a fiber optic system instead of copper.

As new computerized technology is incorporated in aviation, such as infrared imaging and high definition monitors in the cockpit, the need for systems that can handle high-data demands increases concurrently. Fiber optics have about a 400:1 data transmission ratio when compared to copper wiring systems. They are also able to securely carry huge rates of data across their length, offering over 10 gb/s (gigabytes per second). As a result, fiber optic systems are able to provide a larger bandwidth and faster, more secure communications between systems.

Because fiber optics don’t receive or emit radiating energy, they are more secure against interference. These systems can be installed without the precautions that we currently need for copper wiring. Copper is more susceptible to signal leakage and distortion and requires extra redundancy to prevent the system from being compromised by outside sources. As a result, fiber optics are becoming popular in the defense industry; Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets rely on fiber optic systems for mission critical communications. 

Due to proximity distortion, copper wiring cannot carry data over the length of an aircraft without needing added preamplifiers, or other equipment, to preserve signal. On average, copper wiring can only carry 1.5 gb/s between two points. Alternatively, fiber optic cables don’t need much more than a reliable connector to ensure reliable end-to-end data transmission over long distances. This allows cabling to feed directly to its destination over a greater distance, without the need of an additional avionics bay.

With their numerous benefits, fiber optics cables in aircraft are able to keep up with growing demands for high-data transmission between electronic boxes, sensors, actuators and more. The high data rates of this system decrease overall operating costs of an aircraft because they can be integrated with new technology. Through their weight savings, security, and longer transmission lengths, it is likely fiber optics have a bright future in aviation—quite literally.

At Fulfillment By ASAP, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the multi-mode fibers you need, new or obsolete. As a premier supplier of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries, we’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7x365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@fulfillmentbyasap.com or call us at +1-920-785-6790.



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Fiber Optic Cables In Aircraft

Fiber optics are considered the future of aircraft cable technology. The high-speed fiber cable is more lightweight than standard steel wiring and is extremely secure since it doesn’t use electromagnetic radiation to communicate information. In addition, harsh environment fiber optics are durable enough to handle the difficult stressors presented in a flight cycle. Coupled with its affordability, fiber optic cable is starting to be incorporated into newer aircraft cable systems. 

Despite its novelty in aviation, fiber optic cable technology has been utilized for data communication purposes since 1988. The Transatlantic Telecommunication Cables (TAT-8) were built in 1988 by an assortment of global investors including AT&T and French and British telecom carriers. The structure stretches from Tuckerton, New Jersey to locations in Whickerton, England and Podmoth, France, reaching a length of over 3,500 miles.

The six fiber-optic cables are bundled together in a copper casing amounting to less than one inch in total diameter. At the time of their installment, the telecommunication cables allowed for the transmission of data amounting to 40,000 phone calls at once. Since then, investments in fiber optic cable technology has grown steadily at an average growth of $2.2 billion per year, with investors including the likes of Google and Huawei Marine Networks.

So, we know it’s an up and coming technology, but what exactly is it, and how does it work? Fiber optic cables are glass fibers that can carry photons (light) across the cable through refraction. A standard cable consists of four distinct layers— the core, cladding, buffer coating, and jacket. The core is made up of pure glass, which is surrounded by the layer of cladding. Cladding is made of a glass or plastic composite that has a lower index of refraction than that of the core, which acts as a barrier to prevent light attenuation, or loss of light. The next two layers, the buffer coating and outer jacket, are added as protection from moisture and corrosive materials.

These cables utilize the concept of total internal reflection. When light travels, depending on the angle upon which it interacts with water or glass, it can be refracted or reflected. When pulses of light enter the cable core, they are emitted at a shallow angle that allows the light to be reflected off the walls of the glass fiber. In essence, the glass acts as a mirror, and reflects the light through the length of the cable. Remember that the surrounding cladding layer has a lower index of refraction; since pulses of light are emitted at a predetermined angle, the photons maintain their signal and do not escape through the cladding.

Depending on the necessary fiber optics bandwidth, most aircraft fiber optic systems will include a transmitters receivers, optical fiber, optical regenerator, and optical receiver. The optical transmitter encodes light signals and transmits them through the optical fiber. The fiber optic core carries the light signal to the optical receiver. Once the light mode reaches the optical receiver, it is decoded. This data transmitting system can be utilized on an aircraft for various purposes including data networks, in-flight entertainment, flight simulators, and radar systems.

At Fulfillment By ASAP, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find the fiber optic cable or fiber optics parts you need, new or obsolete. As a premier supplier of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, and defense industries, we’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7x365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@fulfillmentbyasap.com or call us at +1-914-359-2001.



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Automatic Testing Equipment

A machine or piece of equipment can only last as long as it can be supported. Without the proper tools to service and maintain the equipment the viability and life of the machine can quickly deteriorate. This problem is especially pervasive for the military and in the defense industry. With new programs being high demand but very limited in supply, the rate at which branches of the military acquire new aircrafts has significantly decreased. They are, instead, relying on legacy systems staying in service longer than they were built to last. Older aircrafts are further reaching a point of obsolescence because of they are unable to meet the changing requirements of current avionic standards. These have culminated into creating the perfect environment for a growing market in Automatic Testing Equipment (ATE) in order to prolong the service viability of older aircrafts.

In order to meet the limited budget that is allocated to military service departments, ATE manufacturers need to be create products that are well worth their money. In order to meet the demands of defense needs, ATE’s need to be affordable and versatile. ATE’s need to be able to support multiple systems from different manufacturers such as Boeing Aircraft Company, Teradyne, and Lockheed Martin. Essentially, what it comes down to is that the Department of Defense (DoD) needs ATEs that are able to support as many different systems as possible, regardless of manufacturer. 

Military departments are working towards standardizing ATE’s in order to fit the specific equipment servicing needs of each branch. For example, the Navy is developing what is known as the electronic Consolidated Automated Support System (eCASS) and the Air Force has been developing the Versatile Depot Automatic Test Station (VDATS). By standardizing their ATE’s by department, they will be more equipped to deal with the needs of their current machines and can plan for projected weapons advancements.

Due to the specialization that comes with creating departmentalized testing systems, branches of the military have been able to avoid creating new ATE systems and have instead been able to work around minor system modifications. Rather than creating a completely new testing system, upgrades to the current Navy eCASS system allow it to work around advancements in the machines they test. By making augmentation specific modifications to individual testing stations they are able to prolong the life of the testing system itself and ensure that the machines they service are able to keep up with the standards of the times.

At Fulfillment by ASAP, owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all the avionics equipment, aircraft automated testing equipment, and common benchtop automated test sets you need, new or obsolete. As a premier supplier of parts for the aerospace, aviation, and defense industries, we’re always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7x365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@fulfillmentbyasap.com or call us at +1-920-785-6790.


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