Introduction to AVIONICS

Modern aviation is an extremely developing type of transport. Aviation has changed significantly in one century only. Simple glider structure has been developing in a variety of aircraft types in less than 100 years. Nowadays, aircraft include airplanes, helicopters, balloons, airships.

Fig. 1. Wright flyer first flight (1903).

During that time some air transport vehicle was invented, highly used and forgotten in history. It happened with airships. This transport frame was the most expected in the market of passengers and cargo, but technology was not ready to support that. Series of airships catastrophes in near 1930-1940 lead to switching air transportation industry to airplane and helicopter frames. However, market, flight rules, infrastructure were developed for further airships growing.

Fig. 2. Airship Hindenburgh Zeppelin (LZ 129) was flown over New York (May 1937). 97 people on board 36 passengers and 61 crewmen.

This one-century acceleration impulse gives the biggest airplanes which were ever created. Airbus A 380-900 can easily serve 960 passengers transfer over the globe. Antonov An 225 can carry 250 tons of cargo up to 4000 km in one step. The variety of aircraft used today serves about 4 billion passenger journeys globally with 38.9 million flights in 2019 [https://www.iata.org/en/publications/annual-review/].

Variety of present aircraft types is a result of successful implementation of robust control in multiple parts of airframe systems. Any modern aircraft is a high complexity system with millions of electronic components, simultaneous operation of which make possible to create control flight with required lift power. Any equipment of modern civil aircraft is guided and controlled by electronic devices. Take-off, en-route flight, and landing are performed using many different electrical systems. Electronic equipment ensures the functioning of the whole air transport system based on criteria providing a required level of flight safety.

Moreover, modern technology opens new challenges to aviation in general. Hydrogen airplanes and electric propulsion are changing aviation. Deals of aviation industry represent a variety of vehicle prototypes driving with electrical engines. Electrical aircraft is already present in the general aviation domain (E-plane "eFusion", Alpha electro, Ikarus, Mahepa). Also, many successful launches of solar airplanes have been done beginning from 2000. Solar planes operates in the stratosphere and use a solar panel farm to produce power for electric engines.

What is AVIONICS ?

Deep integration of electronic systems in aviation at 60s of XX century push up introduction of abbreviation "Avionics". The term "Avionics" is derived from two words "AVIation" and "electrONICS", which means any electrical equipment used in aeronautical engineering [21]. This term is used to refer to electronic equipment placed on board of airframe only [50].

AVIONICS= AVIation vehicle + electrONICS.

Air transportation is supported by numerous ground-based and space-based equipment. During the whole flight on-board systems of airplane uses navigational signals from space-based radio beacons, ground-based navigational aids, interrogate with surveillance radars, and provide continuous data transfer to air traffic control service. A variety of ground equipment serves any flight in order to guaranty the required level of flight safety. Term Avionics can not be used to call ground equipment.

The analog of the term "avionics" in Russian journals of the Soviet period can be considered the term "on-board electronic equipment of aircraft." Also, both terms Avionics and aviation electronics are used means the same equipment. In this resource, the term "avionics system" means any system available on-board of aircraft, required electricity for its operation. Not only systems can be referred to as avionics. Any electrical equipment can be called avionics including wire, lamp, switch, sensor, display, indicators, computers, and others.

Avionics can be definitely used in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) structures. In most simple cases UAV avionics includes mission control computer, battery, sensors, wire, digital data link equipment, and payload.

Therefore Avionics can be used for electronic equipment of

  • Airplane
  • Helicopter
  • Gliders
  • Balloon
  • Airship
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
  • Flarecraft or ground-effect vehicle
  • Jet suit
  • Hoverboard
  • Ion thruster plane

Could AVIONICS be used for spacecraft components?

Nowadays, the term "avionics" has many definitions and applications. Many dictionaries differently interpreted it. In some modern dictionaries [40; 42; 61; 69] the term "avionics" refers to the science and technology related to electronic systems and devices used in aviation and space industry. This interpretation is based on the fact that electronic equipment of spacecraft has many commons with the principles of aircraft system operation or is a result of improving existing aircraft systems.

However, to answer our question we need to understand what is Aviation in general.

Aviation is activities surrounding the operation of aircraft including airplane manufacture, development, and design. The word aviation was used in 1863 derived from the Latin word avis, which means bird and the suffix -ation. Aviation is referred to any flying vehicle within the airspace. Unfortunately, spacecraft and starships are designed to operate in space or in a non-air surrounding environment. Of course, during start and landing starship is located in airspace therefore in this case we can refer avionics to some spacecraft models. However, avionics cannot be applied for vehicles design to operation in a non-air environment. Thus, usage of avionics for electrical systems of satellites or international space stations is not logical.

But, could we refer aviation to air or atmosphere? After the first fly of helicopter integrity on Mars on April 19, 2021 the airspace could be spread to the atmosphere. Thus, aviation potentially could be expanded to including all activities of vehicle operation within the atmosphere of a planet.

Moreover, equipment used on-board of these flying vehicles within atmosphere can be referred to avionics, too. Also, we can refer avionics to a free-flying jetpack that can be used in different missions to operate within an atmosphere of a planet.

Logical to use some other terms ( such as spaceonics or sponics ) to call electrical equipment of spacecraft.

Published April 09, 2022

AVIONICS training course materials represented only in demonstrative mode. If it useful, all grammar mistakes will be corrected and more documents will be added. Let me know if you interest in avionics.
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Avionics training in details by
Ostroumov IvanOSTROUMOV Ivan, PhD
Associate Professor, www.ostroumov.sciary.com