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Image provided courtesy of AgustaWestland; all rights reserved.

The increased functionality and data transmission speeds on modern aircraft make the investment in aircraft optical communications cost-effective, as copper-based systems become increasingly heavy and expensive. However, aircraft networks differ from terrestrial telecoms systems and other optical networks (e.g. rail, automotive) in several fundamental respects:

  • Network size There are far fewer nodes on aircraft than on typical telecoms networks (thousands rather than millions) and much shorter link lengths: (metres rather than kilometres). This radically changes the cost model and optimised network design.
  • Traffic type The system must cope with signals ranging from sub-kbps to multi-Gbps using avionic protocols, some of which are not directly fibre-compatible
  • Component limitations Aircraft systems demand extended performance but also wider operating temperature range, demanding shock & vibration, rigorous flame & toxicity specifications etc.
  • Component standards Pre-requisite for component qualification in many aircraft manufacturers is certification to an appropriate international standard.

DAPHNE aims to tackle these problems to facilitate the use of photonics within the aeronautic industry and establish the basis for a common infrastructure for aircraft photonic networks.