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The Future of Avionics Systems

Khalifa University of Science and Technology

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This lecture presents the IEEE Aerospace & Electronic Systems Society (AESS) Avionics Systems Panel (ASP) views on avionics systems future evolutions, with an identification of key research challenges and industry-focused innovation opportunities. The ever-increasing density of air traffic and the rise of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are prompting a rapid evolution of Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) and Avionics (CNS+A) technologies that will provide unprecedented enhancements in terms of safety, capacity and efficiency. Several of the underlying CNS technologies have already hit the market, while other more advanced capabilities are still being researched and developed. The transition to Performance-Based Operations (PBO) is also a quantum shift that will have profound impacts on aviation equipment mandates and standards, with tangible benefits in terms of airspace capacity, safety, access modalities, prioritization and overall fairness. The PBO transition is well underway for navigation equipment standards and operational arrival/departure procedures, whereas communication and surveillance equipment is still currently constrained by legacy mandates and architectures. So, the full PBO paradigm evolutions require new harmonized CNS performance metrics and associated system-level hardware and software certification methods for integrated CNS+A systems. Another key challenge is in the evolution of systems engineering and lifecycle management practices to encompass cyber-physical security and interoperability requirements. These transformations elicit the introduction of a viable certification scheme for ground-based ATM equipment and decision support systems (increasingly connected and integrated with their airborne counterparts) and the identification of a viable approach to the safety certification of Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) algorithms, which are becoming an essential technology in the CNS+A context. The conventional ATM network and services will be expanded to include new UAS and Space Traffic Management (UTM/STM) schemes for unsegregated operations of manned and autonomous vehicles both in atmospheric flight (including low-level and urban operations) and in near-Earth space operations. Finally, CNS+A technologies of the future will require advances in the design of Human-Machine Interfaces and Interactions (HMI2) supporting trusted autonomous operations (human-autonomy teaming) and the full exploitation of intelligent health management technologies for a safe and automated system reconfiguration in the presence of detected or predicted faults.