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Addressing the rising complexity within the Aerospace & Defence industry

Author : Paige West is Editor for Design, Products & Applications

03 August 2017

June 2017 saw engineers, managers and organisations from the Aerospace & Defence industry come together for National Instruments’ (NI) dedicated one day forum.

Click here to read this article in the digital issue

Keynotes, technical presentations, technology demonstrations and customer solutions were featured throughout the day, providing the opportunity to learn more about the latest trends and technologies for modern aerospace, defence, security and space systems.  

The big focus this year was on navigation, radar, radio electronics and reconnaissance, as well as test rig construction and Hardware in the Loop (HIL). 

NI’s own stand was displaying the latest solutions for applications in radar and signal intelligence to test cells and embedded control and it had key people at hand to explain how the company is improving its instrumentation to create smarter test systems that allow for a reduced total cost. 

Morning keynote

Global Navigation Satellite Systems:

Jean-François Pouilly from M3 Systems kicked off the morning keynote. He discussed modern Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and the impact it has on the aviation and defence industries. 

The last 20 years has seen many important events in the field of satellite navigation systems, to name a few: the new European satellite system Galileo, the new Chinese satellite system Beidou, the modernisation of US satellite system and the reconstruction of Russian satellite system GLONASS.

It is estimated that eight billion GNSS devices will be in use by 2020 across all market segments with an increasing interest in positioning techniques based on the system, such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), cellular network infrastructure or the integration of the two for applications such as automatic vehicle location, navigation and precise positioning and emergency callers. 

The increasing demand for commercial Location Based Services (LBS) has driven system integrators and network manufacturers to focus on positioning solutions which are even more accurate than the regulatory mandates for positioning of emergency callers and other user services and applications. 

The rise in demand means the cost of such devices is decreasing but the complexity of the test systems are increasing. Test systems now need to have increased accuracy with multi-function, frequency and connectivity capabilities.

What’s new with LabVIEW

The complexity of modern aerospace and defence devices continues to increase because they are powered by more capable software that has turned them into intelligent systems.


To help manage the rising complexity, NI unveiled new features of LabVIEW 2017 and introduced its next generation; LabVIEW NXG. 

New capabilities in LabVIEW 2017 target the development, deployment and management of large, complex and distributed test and embedded applications. These include features that enhance interoperability with standard IP and standard communications protocols such as IEC 61131-3, OPC UA and the secure DDS messaging standard.

LabVIEW NXG is the next generation of LabVIEW. Its initial 1.0 release bridges the gap between configuration-based software and custom programming languages. The software offers engineering workflows for interactively acquiring, analysing and visualising data sets combined with a built-in, drag-and-drop engineering user interface development and data exploration. It’s designed to help engineers focus on innovation rather than implementation and turn data collection into real insights. 

Whether you are buying LabVIEW for the first time or have been on an active service contract for years, you have access to both LabVIEW NXG 1.0 and LabVIEW 2017. If you are unsure which platform to use, NI has compiled an online assessment that provides a recommendation based on the needs of your project. 

Track sessions

Throughout the afternoon, visitors had the option to attend three different track sessions. 

Track 1 was dedicated to ‘Design, Validation and Verification’; here NI tackled rising system complexity by studying the Automotive industry. The Aerospace and Automotive industry have similarities when it comes to system complexity, both face the challenges of electrification, connectivity and sensor fusion. A model based test approach, interoperability and open standards could help reduce cost and complexity across the board. 

This session also saw David Squires from BEECube looking at the world’s highest performance COTS platform for electronic warfare and signals intelligence, new technologies for Software Defined Radio (SDR) were presented by Tim Fountain of Ettus Research and Steve Tucker from AWR illustrated his concept for modelling large phased-array antenna systems. 

Track 2 was dedicated to ‘Automated Test and Measurement’; here NI addressed the challenges of multi-channel, phase-aligned RF systems and looked at standardising the hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) signal path with SLSC. For years, test engineers have taken advantage of the lower price, outsourced risk and easy upgradability of commercial off-the-shelf components for their data acquisition. However, they’ve lacked good solutions for the other half of their test challenge; switches, loads and signal conditioning (SLSC). NI’s SLSC architecture is designed to deliver all the above benefits while supporting the integration of custom circuitry and load plates by being fully open. This session demonstrated how SLSC has helped companies focus on their domain expertise, building and testing next-generation vehicles, rather than building and maintaining data acquisition systems. 

The session also saw Tom Adams, TBG Solution, present standard test platforms and architectures. By leveraging NI’s TestStand and LabVIEW platforms, the company designed an architecture for automated test as a standard toolkit that it can customise for its customers. Lastly, Argenta described the challenges it faced bringing together NI’s PXI, SCXI and LabVIEW FPGA platforms to deliver a comprehensive test executive for fuel metering units (FMUs).

At the same time there was also a ‘Hands-On: Build an Automated Test System with PXI and TestStand’ track session. Here, visitors could learn how to develop an automated test system using NI’s test solution to increase development productivity and reduce overall cost. They could also perform functional tests on multiple units with TestStand.

At the closing of the forum, there was also the opportunity for visitors to enter a prize draw with the chance of winning a LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, powered by LabVIEW!

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