Collins Aerospace Develops Generational Leap in Flight Control Processing Power for Perigon

Collins Aerospace is developing a next-generation flight control computer, Perigon, initially for military rotorcraft, keeping an eye out for other types of aircraft as well. (Collins Aerospace)

The use of multi-core processors, an input / output (I / O) card and a high-speed backplane are among the key elements giving Collins Aerospace the ability to build 20 times the power of processing of its existing flight control computers in Perigon, officials at the aircraft systems manufacturer said International Avionics during a recent interview.

Perigon is the next-generation flight control computer developed by Collins, having first been released by the company as a “next-generation vehicle management computer” at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow. Darryl Woods, general manager of Collins Aerospace’s flight control systems division, said Avionics that Perigon’s initial development is aimed at the rotorcraft market, but its on-board processing architecture could be scaled up and adapted to a variety of aircraft in different segments, including commercial airliners and military jets to fixed wing.

“In the past, flight controls, especially in the fixed wing market, used single processors for non-safety critical applications and dual processors for safety critical fly-by-wire applications. These processors are usually single-core, or they can be multi-core, but we disable all cores except one – and they usually run below 1GHz compared to what we do with Perigon, where we’re above 1 GHz. Perigon has three different multicore processors and all three operate at over 1 GHz, ”said Woods.

The expansion of compute performance enabled by multicore processors is the result of linking together multiple central processing unit (CPU) cores that share the tasks needed to run an application in a single unit. This allows for the sharing of tasks and resources such as cache memory which would typically be separated between multiple computers, to be performed using the multiple cores of the single processing unit.

However, in the past, avionics vendors have not been able to take full advantage of multi-core processors due to interference issues that arise from using multiple processing cores in any computer system. can change the way the system shares resources such as memory or code. on demand. However, these challenges have recently proven to be surmountable, with CMC Electronics launching the first civilian certified avionics multicore computer, the PU-3000, earlier this year.

According to Woods, Perigon uses a small I / O board that performs I / O related tasks and algorithms. This allows multicore processors to focus primarily on performing application-related tasks and algorithms. Perigon is also designed to incorporate a high speed VPX backplane to support increased processing power.

“The computing power density of the latest processors used in the Perigon has improved significantly over previous generations,” said Woods. “As airlines and operators continue to demand more sophisticated flight control modes of operation such as autopilot, range or improved collision avoidance, the algorithms become much more complex and they need to be implemented. real time. And there can’t be much delay in real-time data transfer. Some older technologies may provide real time, but there may be a hundred millisecond delay in getting that data, whereas with Perigon we are talking much faster than that.

Two of the main integrated vendors working with Collins on Perigon development are Lynx Software Technologies and AdaCore. The LYNX MOSA.ic avionics software framework – a software framework that allows system architects to subdivide systems into small, independent stacks – will serve as the “foundation” for Perigon’s development according to Lynx.

Collins also selected AdaCore’s QGen code generation for Simulink® / Stateflow® models and their new TQL-1 enterprise qualification package for engineering development based on Perigon models. AdaCore describes QGen as the premier “generator of qualifiable code for a secure subset of Simulink® / Stateflow® modeling languages.”

“The QGen code generator is currently qualified by AdaCore and its partner Verocel at qualification level 1 of the tool DO-178C (TQL-1), which is the highest level of qualification recognized by the FAA. QGen with TQL-1 allows developers to use generated code without any manual review, streamlining the process of developing and verifying the critical system. In addition, QGen includes an interactive model-level debugger, displaying the model along with the generated source code to provide a particularly productive bridge between control engineering and software engineering, ”AdaCore said in a press release dated 20 July.

Over the next year, Woods will lead a team of engineers developing Perigon in an aircraft-level simulation lab at their facility in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Some of the main engineering work at this point focuses on evaluating processing speeds, integrating applications, and how the multicore processor configuration handles flight logic.

Kim Kinsley, vice president and general manager of environmental and airframe control systems at Collins Aerospace, said Avionics that the initial objective of Perigon’s development will be to support military rotorcraft applications. The Périgon could however be adapted to civil rotorcraft and other types of aircraft in the future.

“Our experience is much deeper on the military side of the rotorcraft market, and we have been able to expand the capabilities of our systems as our customers develop new needs. In the military environment, we see future demands regarding pilot workload management and determining how it helps them in their mission. There are also new areas that we are hearing about, such as aerial firefighting. If you think about aerial firefighting and what kinds of capabilities those systems require, the ability to take advantage of a system like Perigon, especially in a degraded visual environment. There are opportunistic adjacencies that we see for Perigon, but a lot of our initial focus is more on the military side, ”Kinsley said.

Collins expects Perigon to be ready for qualifying testing by the end of 2022.

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