UAV technology could bring FBW to light airplanes

 - July 29, 2008, 11:22 AM

A company that supplies high-tech, fault-resistant databus components for the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 has launched a research project aimed at bringing low-cost fly-by-wire flight control systems to light general aviation airplanes.
Austrian data communications firm TTTech plans to use specialized hardware to develop flight control systems that will be based on standards widely used in the aerospace industry today for testing UAVs. Launched in partnership with an Austrian university and funding from an Austrian national aerospace research program, the project will center on development of a time-triggered protocol (TTP) card that will be the brains of an inexpensive fly-by-wire control system.

The UAV segment is seen as a fertile market for such a system as makers of unmanned aircraft seek to incorporate highly accurate commercial off-the-shelf components into their designs. But eventually the project, dubbed Captain (COTS Airborne PMC Card for Time-triggered Aerospace Interfaces and Networks), could serve as the basis for a safe, reliable fly-by-wire control system in light GA airplanes.
“The developments that come out of the Captain project will simplify and accelerate the deployment of TTP-based systems in aerospace applications,” said Reinhard Maier, Captain project manager and an aerospace engineer at TTTech.

TTP is a standard used for fault-tolerant communications between computing platforms. Audi uses the technology for the throttle-by-wire system in its automobiles and Honeywell has applied TTP in the Primus Apex avionics system. The protocol was developed specifically for safety-critical applications. TTTech has also been tapped to supply TTP data communications technology to suppliers of various components in the A380 and 787.

The initial task for engineers working on the Captain project will be to design the TTP-PMC card that will serve as part of a TTP-based fly-by-wire control system for the JXP UAV being developed by the FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences.