What Are Avionics?
Avionics are defined as the electronic systems found on aircraft, spacecraft, and satellites. In fact, it is these systems that make flight possible, allowing pilots to operate aircraft safely. The term “avionics” comes from combining “aviation” with “electronics,” and it is a term familiar to many in the aerospace world. In this blog, we will cover the seven systems that make up the basics of avionics.
Generally, aircraft contain avionics in the cockpit where they can be easily accessed by pilots. As communications are one of the more essential functions, aircraft design ensures that they are within reach. Communications systems connect to ground crew and passengers, and they operate on 118 MHz to 136.976 MHz, with slight variations on commercial aircraft intended for international travel. For instance, advanced military vessels are also equipped with communication avionics to reach satellites.
Air navigation relies on the position of the aircraft on or above the Earth’s surface. Avionics take advantage of satellite systems, such as GPS, WAAS, or inertial navigation systems and ground-based radio. Typically, most navigation technology combines these systems. Meanwhile, older systems like VOR or LORAN need the pilot to plot the course on a paper map first. Luckily, improvements and advancements in avionics only require such measures in older airplanes.
Monitoring avionics consist of dials, gauges, and instruments within the cockpit. If the cockpit has computer monitors rather than analog displays, it is called a glass cockpit. Similar to navigation, monitoring evolved into more computer-based models as opposed to manual versions, such as those found on older aircraft. However, these advancements have proved challenging for pilots seeking to balance automation with manual functions.
Flight control refers to the autopilot feature present on most commercial aircraft. This system was originally intended to keep bomber planes steady to ensure accuracy. Later, it evolved into a way for pilots to avoid error during flight and reduce challenges during takeoff and landing operations. In rotary-wing aircraft, like helicopters, auto-stabilization is another form of autopilot. To ensure safety and FAA compliance, flight control devices and software are subjected to various tests and assessments.
Traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS) are designed to detect other aircraft and warn pilots about possible collisions. This type of software includes instructions to avoid accidents when it detects a nearby aircraft. Furthermore, it includes ground-proximity warning systems, though this technology still needs a lot of improvement.
Running out of fuel in a car leaves you stranded, whereas running out of fuel in an airplane leads to disaster. The fuel quantity indication system (FQIS) calculates the fuel remaining in the tanks, while the fuel control and monitoring system (FCMS) manages fuel for numerous tasks. Together these technologies ensure fuel efficiency.
Although pilots cannot predict future weather conditions, weather systems can warn of turbulence or excessive precipitation, allowing pilots to adjust altitude to maintain a safe flight path. There are also inexpensive light aircraft variations that detect storm activity and lighting, and more advanced systems that generate weather radar.
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