How Fiber Optics Can Bolster Avionic Operations

Since the widespread adoption of fiber optics, countless applications have seen major boosts in capability. For example, internet services can now offer speeds and bandwidths that far outmatch previous copper wire options, and other industries are seeing similar benefits. Within the aviation industry, fiber optics have the potential of greatly benefiting various systems, increasing data transfer rates, reducing overall assembly weights, and much more. One area in aircraft that is currently evolving with the implementation of fiber optics is avionics, those of which include all the electronic systems and controls that pilots rely on. In this blog, we will discuss how fiber optics pose to improve avionic capabilities, allowing you to better understand the future of aircraft design and operation.

From the powering of navigation displays to the operation of communications systems, avionics handle hundreds of apparatuses and tasks that range from small to big. In addition, avionics may also be used for searchlights, in-flight entertainment systems, and winches. Over the past half-century, electronics on all fronts have seen consistent advancements, becoming smaller, lighter, and faster. While increased bandwidth and performance of electronics has always had the potential to benefit aviation endeavors, aircraft, satellites, and spacecraft are all constricted by weight requirements and space. As such, avionic advancement has progressed with the limitation of bulky copper wiring, but this is set to change with the introduction of modern cockpits and cabins featuring fiber optics.

In general, fiber optics have many advantages for avionics when compared to current copper wire assemblies. As discussed before, fiber optics are known for having a much higher bandwidth, meaning that they can transfer much more data at once. While copper wiring can reach around 10 Gbps, fiber optics can transfer upwards of 60 Tbps. Additionally, a given length of fiber optics will generally be 10 times lighter than the equivalent length of copper wire, meaning more data capacity while reducing weight.

Alongside speed, the quality of data that is transferred is also of utmost importance, and fiber optics are the clear winner in this regard. To ensure the signal remains strong enough to reach its destination, fiber optics need a repeater every 30 miles on average, while copper wiring requires a repeater every 3 miles. Furthermore, as fiber optics function through the transfer of light instead of electrical current, they are effectively immune against the effects of Electromagnetic Interference (EMF). As such, many avionics will not have to be protected from noise and other forms of interference, allowing them to be placed closer together for saving space. As an added benefit, this protection is also highly advantageous for defense applications where weaponized EMI may be a concern.

For an example of just what these increased capabilities mean, one can see how radar systems will perform. For high-powered radars, 4k to 8k resolution images will be created through real-time, high-speed processing. While digital compression can aid in data transfer with copper wiring, only so much can be done before latency and compression make data unusable. With fiber optics though, accurate pinpointing of objects in the sky can be conducted with ease and without loss for the benefit of the pilot and operation.

If you are shopping for fiber optics, avionics, or other various aircraft components, we at NSN Unlimited can help you procure everything you require quickly and easily. With AS9120B, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56B accreditation, we stand by the quality and caliber of all our offerings. Additionally, we always strive to meet time constraints, providing expedited shipping on domestic and international orders through the use of our expansive supply chain network. Get started on the procurement process with a competitive quote for your comparisons which you may receive through the submission of an RFQ form as provided on our website. 


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