ARM inside SWaP-C savvy flight control computer
Well known for sitting inside smartphones, GPS, and many other mobile devices, the ARM processor has found a home inside Curtiss-Wright Controls Electronic Systems’ Versatile Flight Control Computer (VFCC). Not only is the inclusion of the ARM processor intriguing, but we also have to strongly concur with the first part of the VFCC’s nomenclature: “versatile.” Accordingly, the computer is suited to mission computing, flight control, engine control, vibration management, and actuator control missions, among others, in unmanned and manned avionics, in addition to rotorcraft, for example. Boasting low Size, Weight, Power, and Cost (SWaP-C), the computer measures in at 11.5″ x 9.3″ x 2.1″, weighs less than 4.4 lbs, and has power dissipation of fewer than 21 W. Input power slides into the picture at 28 VDC with 50 millisecond holdup. Additionally, the “natural convection-cooled” VFCC’s operating temperature is -40 °C to +71 °C.
But getting back to the brain behind the brawn, the VFCC specifically includes two ARM Cortex-A8 processor clusters speeding along at 600 MHz. Also nested in the computer are three Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGAs and a duo of Texas Instruments TMS320C64x+ DSP processors, plus 1 GB nonvolatile RAM. Since the computer is for flight applications, a DO-178B Level A certifiable RTOS is included, and the FPGAs are DO-254 Level A certifiable. System-level Built-In Test (BIT) and interfaces such as ARINC 429 and 825, RS-422/485, USB 2.0, synchronization discretes, excitation outputs, 10 mA servo valve drivers, and discrete inputs/outputs are included.