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 +1-714-705-4780.


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