Test and Measurement for Automotive, Aerospace & Defense: Redefining the possibilities to solve tomorrow’s challenges

The aerospace and defense (A&D) industry is one of the most critical end-user segments for the test and measurement (T&M) market. Leading A&D vendors are working toward higher frequencies, greater bandwidth availability, and multi-channel solutions and adding functionality to their existing systems. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0 and changing customer requirements will lead to the adoption of new business models by test and measurement vendors.

The total electronic test equipment market for A&D, which includes general purpose test equipment, automatic test equipment (ATE), data acquisition (DAQ) test equipment, electrical testers, and environmental testers are the most significant one.

Radar and electronic warfare (EW) applications hold the highest market share followed by military communications (public safety and private mobile radio); and satellite and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) signals intelligence (SIGINT) applications. Antenna technology has become and continues to remain a dominant segment, with advanced radar systems witnessing greater penetration.

Testing such systems not only requires wider bandwidths, but also high resolution along with lower phase noise, lower pre-dynamic range, and higher signal fidelity.

With the increased complexity of aerospace and defense systems, customers face challenges in the testing, validation, and verification of these modern devices. This trend is changing the face of test and accelerating the need for flexible and scalable test solutions.

Research indicates that network-centric warfare systems are expected to be integrated, thereby connecting more platforms across the network to support high-volume data and cleared volume transmission. The need for high-throughput connectivity is expected to create a demand for upgrading systems that are compatible with the increased data rate needs.

Moreover, one of the key requirements for A&D users is to emulate the capability of legacy instruments. Air forces maintain older fleets while investing significant portions of their budgets for upgrades in the area of avionics and electronic warfare. Avionics upgrades are considered one of the major enhancements for older aircrafts and are required to fully integrate into these aircrafts in order to optimize their mission capabilities.

Applications such as EW, radar prototype, spectrum monitoring, and signal intelligence use modular test equipment as it supports RF requirements at a low cost. Digital subsystems in A&D test systems are undergoing a change. Legacy high-voltage digital subsystems as well as low-voltage parallel subsystems are being replaced by higher-speed and serial interfacing platforms. The A&D community has started to incorporate this technology into their subsystems, increasing the ability to communicate with higher-speed serial interfaces.

The most important requirements regarding test equipment are the full capture of signals of greater bandwidth, wideband capabilities, architecture alignment with multifunction antenna systems, more software content, and greater ease of use.

mmWave

There is continuous adoption of ultraband radars, and GHz bandwidth is going to be a key requirement for signal intelligence and spectrum monitoring. There is growing research on millimeter-wave frequencies up from 30 GHz for special purpose radars and other equipment.

Modular Solutions

Selection of test equipment by aerospace engineers is dependent on the system’s accuracy, speed, and acquisition cost. However, evolving test needs have increased the importance of other parameters including scalability, flexibility, upgradability and interoperability. Today, the challenges faced by most test organizations in the A&D industry include obsolescence management, rapidly increasing RF requirements, and the growing importance of design for test (DFT). A&D customers’ test requirements are transforming from rack-and-stack box instruments and closed-architecture automated test equipment (ATE) systems to smarter test systems built on a modular platform that scales to meet current and future needs.

New Radars & Radio

There is an emerging market shift from A&D users using RF signal analyzers and generators to more radio prototyping equipment. Several users may adopt software-defined radios instead of traditional instruments. In civil aviation, there is a trend toward convergence of technologies—including VHF Omni Directional Radio Range (VOR), instrument landing system (ILS), communications, weather, radar, and global position system (GPS)—into a single radio. There is also a shift toward radar and other EW technologies that have more signal processing capabilities (such as cognitive radars), and these technologies require T&M equipment capable of processing large RF bandwidths.

5G

With the arrival of 5G, along with A&D applications pushing the requirements of signal and spectrum analyzers, new multi-channel applications will have a direct impact on bandwidth usage and frequency ranges. Drastic shifts in signal generators, signal and spectrum analyzers, network analyzers, and power meters segments of the electronic test and measurement market in R&D as well manufacturing applications are expected.

NewSpace

There are new trends and development in satellites. NewSpace is an emerging area that has driven the development of low-cost spacecraft, satellite launchers, and smaller satellites. SpaceX is the leading the initiative in the industry. An increasing number of companies are focusing on the design of new commercial satellites, giving rise to a new test paradigm to maintain low costs and providing opportunities for T&M vendors.

Portable/Handheld Testers

Portable or handheld solutions hold significant potential in the aerospace and defense sector, as the end users are ready to invest in new technology. However, the accuracy of these devices does not match the needs of this sector yet.

Keysight Technologies is the market leader with a market share of about 45% in the general purpose test segment. Other leading participants are Rohde & Schwarz, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, National Instruments, and Cobham AvComm. The firsthand information is below is an interesting fact sheet of technologies and products.

Major focus on Automotive and Aerospace domains and Latest equipment portfolio for Automotive and Aerospace systems testing

Jeff Philips, Head of Automotive Marketing, National Instruments on Automotive and Latest equipment portfolio for Automotive systems testing: “Our major focus within the automotive industry is towards the areas of high disruption and high investment:

  • Electric Vehicle (EV) powertrain validation
  • Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensor and ECU validation
  • Autonomous vehicle perception test
  • 5G (C-V2x) research and validation”

“We have an expansive platform that is designed to optimize the flexibility of the test team, based on a modular hardware platform that allows them to upgrade components of the system as requirements change and the underlying technology evolves. We have test systems targeting all of the above areas, said Philips.”

Nick Butler, Head of Aerospace and Defense Marketing, National Instruments on latest equipment portfolio for Aerospace systems testing: “Within the Aerospace and Defense industry, we focus on the following:

  • Production Test of Electrical and Electromechanical systems (flight controllers, board electronics, mechanical systems, etc.). The main elements of these Automated Test Equipment (ATE) solutions include PXI, Modular Instruments, TestStand, and LabVIEW.
  • Embedded Software Validation for flight controllers (i.e., FADECs). Main elements of these Hardware in the Loop (HIL) systems include PXI, CompactRIO, and VeriStand
  • Design and Validation of RADAR and Electronic Warfare (EW) systems. This includes RF record and playback systems, RADAR target generation systems, RADAR algorithm design (cognitive RADAR), and EW Threat Simulation. Elements of our platform used in this area are PXI and RF instruments, FPGA-based instruments like USRP and FlexRIO, LabVIEW FPGA and LabVIEW.

Madhukar Tripathi, Regional Manager, Anritsu India on Automotive and Latest equipment portfolio for Automotive systems testing: “Anritsu offers a comprehensive range of high performance test systems to test and develop all aspects of the modern car in following area from R&D to Production.

  • Wireless connectivity
  • Safety and driver aids
  • In-vehicle networks
  • Intelligent transport systems
  • Electromagnetic interference”

“The automotive industry is constantly increasing the presence of technology in vehicles. In excess of 100 separate control units will be part of average modern car, all generating more and more applications for informing and entertaining the passengers. All these devices, connected with each other, are constantly sending data to central computers or displays, said Tripathi.”

“Anritsu has a wide variety of handheld RF test instruments to check cables, connectors, antennas and amplifiers. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) provide innovative services relating to different modes of transport and traffic management. Connecting transportation networks to each other and the broader internet will enable participants to make roads safer, travel more efficient, reduce air pollution and improve driver experience, Tripathi added.”

“In the V2X space, DSRC technology and the 802.11p standard have advanced to solve short-term needs. This represents the first wave of mainstream V2X deployment, with LTE and 5G coming later to enrich connectivity and add extra capability. Anritsu provides advanced solutions for V2X, from R&D to field test, to manufacturing. These solutions integrate unique features that reduce complex processes and increase efficiency, ultimately reducing test time and test cycles, added Tripathi.”

Tripathi further added, “The MD8475A is an all-in-one base station simulator supporting all cellular standards and M2M specific applications. It supports services such as eCall, IMS, VoLTE, WLAN off-load tests and call-processing tests for smartphones which are now present on vehicles. In addition, the time required to configure a test environment is greatly reduced by the easy-to-use GUI-based SmartStudio software, as well as supplied test sequences for automatic remote control of the GUI. All this will make M2M testing easy, quick and reliable.”

Prashant Jain, Head – Marketing & Retail Business, Fluke on Automotive and Aerospace domains and Latest equipment portfolio for Automotive and Aerospace systems testing: “To ensure safety and productivity within the manufacturing process Automotive and Aerospace industries deploy many predictive maintenance and test tools such as power quality analysers, thermal imagers and vibration test tools. Our products are put in use in maintenance, testing & validation, calibration and R&D applications. Our power quality analyser has the facility to do a power and power quality measurement in a 400Hz power system makes it attractive to trouble shoot Aerospace equipment.”

Automotive industry: testing power consumption, wireless devices, infotainment systems and environmental conditions

Jeff Philips, Head of Automotive Marketing, National Instruments on Automotive industry: testing power consumption, wireless devices, infotainment systems and environmental conditions: “The convergence of these technologies within Automotive is creating a tremendous challenge for the test teams. Primarily, this is causing an ongoing change to the requirements driving validation needs, which means that the test teams must be able to rapidly evolve their test platforms so that they can satisfy the testing requirements without delaying time-to-market. The test departments are charged with ensuring the safety, reliability, and security of the systems. As the vehicle rapidly evolves towards autonomy, the consequences of poor test procedures can be catastrophic. Each of these areas have a critical tie-in to the safety of the vehicle.”

Madhukar Tripathi, Regional Manager, Anritsu India on Automotive industry: testing power consumption, wireless devices, infotainment systems and environmental conditions: “With more connected car getting popular, car is getting more electronics inside, be it for control or navigational aid or entertainment.  Wireless technology is getting popular and more penetration in automotive sector. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) provide innovative services relating to different modes of transport and traffic management. Connecting transportation networks to each other and the broader internet will enable participants to make roads safer, travel more efficient, reduce air pollution and improve driver experience.”

“In the V2X space, DSRC technology and the 802.11p standard have advanced to solve short-term needs. This represents the first wave of mainstream V2X deployment, with LTE and 5G coming later to enrich connectivity and add extra capability. Anritsu provides advanced solutions for V2X, from R&D to field test, to manufacturing. These solutions integrate unique features that reduce complex processes and increase efficiency, ultimately reducing test time and test cycles.”

Discussing the product Tripathi said, “MS2830A Spectrum Analyzer: The MS2830A can be used for testing of 2G, 3G, LTE and LTE-Advanced signals on a vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-x test environment. It supports measurement of modulation and Tx characteristics, including adjacent channel leakage power and spectrum mask as well as spurious measurements requiring a wide dynamic range.

The capture and replay function can be used to better compare the real world effects with simulated designs and performance, which will ensure the product quality.”

Prashant Jain, Head – Marketing & Retail Business, Fluke on Automotive industry: testing power consumption, wireless devices, infotainment systems and environmental conditions: “Automotive industries are process intensive in nature that requires many testing and validation to ensure process control. This naturally involves lot many testing. They also consume lot of power and have scope for energy conservation which will help the industry to be competitive in the market by reducing the energy cost. Testing the wireless conditions and environment conditions are critical as well and we product our oscilloscope, bus health testers and process calibrators for such application. The upcoming BS6 regulation will drive more environmental condition testing application.”

Software platforms for automotive testing to configure and execute measurement.

Jeff Philips, Head of Automotive Marketing, National Instruments on Software platforms for automotive testing to configure and execute measurement: “We don’t just use software, we are “software-defined.” Software has been a core NI differentiator for decades. The shift in the market towards dedicated processing capabilities and on-board decision-making has created a need that lines up with our strength, rather than us investing to catch up.”

Nick Butler, Head of Aerospace and Defense Marketing, National Instruments said, “Software is central to everything that we do at NI.  NI offers the only true software-defined automated test and automated measurement platform in the industry. Software-defined means that the customer or end user has the control and flexibility to define, and re-define, their system capabilities in software. This allows customers to meet evolving requirements, customize tests for different projects or programs, re-use hardware for multiple applications, and ultimately stay in control of defining and managing their test systems, instead of being beholden to vendor-defined functionality. LabVIEW is our flagship development environment that customers use to design and execute automated test and automated measurement systems. VeriStand is application software for real time test applications, where you can integrate models and perform simulation with real world I/O. TestStand is our industry leading test executive software. And FlexLogger is our newest application software which allows for quick yet powerful configuration based data logging.

Madhukar Tripathi, Regional Manager, Anritsu India on Software platforms for automotive testing to configure and execute measurement: “Anritsu instruments GUI is very easy and user friendly. These instruments have special software for data transfer and analysis. Most of instruments support instrumentation software and have latest interfaces for faster data transfer and analysis.”

“eCall/ERA-GLONASS Solutions: eCall Tester MX703330E software: The eCall Tester MX703330E software runs with the MD8475B to simulate the eCall service PSAP. The software emulates eCall communications (MSD communication to Voice call) between the IVS and the PSAP at a traffic accident, he said.”

Prashant Jain, Head – Marketing & Retail Business, Fluke on Software platforms for automotive testing to configure and execute measurement: “Most of our test and measuring instruments has analysis and reporting software and all of the automotive and aerospace industries using our test instruments also use these software. Besides the reporting need, these software also provides vital information on machine condition by trending the measurement over a period of time.”

Combating the challenges faced by most of the test organizations in the Aerospace industry include obsolescence management, rapidly increasing RF requirements, and the growing importance of design for test (DFT).

Nick Butler, Head of Aerospace and Defense Marketing, National Instruments observes:

  • “Obsolescence management:  As mentioned this is a key pain point for customers in Aerospace and Defense, many of whom are operating decades-old test equipment to maintain and support aging fleets of assets.  NI works closely with these customer to help them address life cycle management, which can include everything from VXI to PXI migration strategies, to TPS development, to leveraging our Business Consulting Services to develop proactive strategies for technology insertion.  We are also very transparent with our customers about product life cycles and EOLs, ensuring customers have ample opportunity to conduce lifetime-buys and/or migrate to newer hardware for their designs. Attached is our Test Engineering Insights Guide for Aerospace and Defense, for more information about our approach.
  • RF requirements:  The future of aerospace and defense lies in the electromagnetic spectrum.  More and more high frequency equipment and systems appear on everything from aircraft to satellites to drones to the troops on the ground.  NI offers systems that allow customers to perform applications ranging from RADAR design and validation, to EW system validation, to SATCOM/MILCOM/Datalink design and validation, to production test of transponders.  NI continues to extend our frequency support, as evidenced by the release of our latest PXIe Vector Signal Transceiver, with support up to 21GHz covering X- and Ku- bands.  And with additional mmWave Radio Heads, support up to 44GHz.”

Madhukar Tripathi, Regional Manager, Anritsu India is of the view that: “Radio-navigation aids such as Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) and VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR) systems help aircraft successfully take off and land by providing exact vertical and horizontal navigation guidance.”

“Scientists and engineers are constantly working on stealth technology. Using facets and Radar Absorbing Materials (RAMs) such as iron ball paint, Jaumann layers, and foam absorbers; their mission is to make military aircraft, ships, submarines, and missiles virtually invisible to radar detection systems. Military and major aerospace companies maintain radar cross section (RCS) facilities as part of Radar and Electronic Peacekeeping. Tests are conducted at these labs to verify that stealth designs are successful in reducing RCS to a level that can protect our forces,” Tripathi said.

“Vector Network Analyzers are perfect elements of an RCS measurement system. They have the measurement speed and accuracy – as well as Time Domain capability – to provide the overall S-parameter critical performance information to help ensure successful stealth designs,” Tripathi added.

“The VNA Master and Site Master families are easy-to-use tools to help make these humanitarian efforts successful. Specifically designed for rugged field environments, they are lightweight and have field-replaceable Li-Ion batteries. Their wide operating temperature range means they will work wherever humanitarian operations are needed,” he added.

“They also employ the Frequency Domain Reflectometry (FDR) measurement technique for distance-to-fault (DTF) measurements. This allows our instruments to locate slight signal path degradation that is missed by other instruments that use Time Domain Reflectometry (TDR) techniques. Such detection capability helps insure the safety and security of peacekeepers, as well as the effectiveness of their missions, Tripathi said.”

“When equipped with the Vector Voltmeter Option 15, the Anritsu VNA Master is a convenient and accurate vector network analyzer for measuring absolute insertion-phase characteristics or comparing phase match between multiple RF cables. It is an especially useful tool in field test configurations, where access to AC power is typically limited. The VNA Master’s Vector Voltmeter mode effectively replaces the functional ratio measurements of now obsolete vector voltmeters and the signal generator. However, it cannot be used to measure RF voltages, which of course, are not needed for determining phase shift. When configured with VVM Option 15, the VNA Master provides detailed software routines and data displays for making phase-cable measurements. It contains its own built-in vector insertion loss and phase receiver, a wideband signal source and directional bridges/couplers—all configured internally—for conducting both 1-port and 2-port measurements at selected CW frequencies,” Tripathi said.

NewSpace is an emerging area that has driven the development of low-cost spacecraft, satellite launchers, and smaller satellites.

Nick Butler, Head of Aerospace and Defense Marketing, National Instruments on NewSpace: “Yes, NI is already working with many of these companies globally, including ISRO (also highlighted at NIWeek), Virgin Orbit, SpaceX, ESA, JAXA, and BlueOrigin. Our software-defined test systems are a great fit for the range of validation tests that need to be performed on everything from the launch vehicle to the satellite bus to the satellite payload. And as volumes ramp towards the hundreds and thousands for some of these constellation applications, NI’s expertise in ATE for production test will be directly applicable to this trending market.” The challenges in automotive and aerospace testing and measuring space

Jeff Philips, Head of Automotive Marketing, National Instruments on The challenges in automotive testing and measuring space: “The two primary challenges facing the market are:

1. Integrating components from multiple vendors into a cohesive test solution – the interconnectedness of the vehicle subsystems require expertise across so many vehicle domains, that specialized components need to be integrated by the more traditional ATE providers.

2. Constantly changing requirements – Whether it’s because the challenge is so new that the scope is unknown or that the evolution of the underlying technology is changing so quickly, the requirements that test departments are operating against are simply changing too quickly. Not just months, sometimes days. This is putting pressure on the traditional approach of designing single-use systems top-to-bottom. The pressure is causing test departments to consider non-traditional approaches, like the platform approach that NI deploys in our highly reconfigurable systems.”

Madhukar Tripathi, Regional Manager, Anritsu India on the challenges in automotive testing and measuring space: “Many aerospace test benches still have old instruments or based on old standards/ interfaces and finding a replacement for them is challenging or repairing of these old instruments is challenge.”

Prashant Jain, Head – Marketing & Retail Business, Fluke on the challenges in automotive testing and measuring space: “The test and measurement needs in these segments are ever evolving  and the need changes from time to time as they deploy modern equipment in their manufacturing and testing process. The expectation from the customer is to have some custom solutions that makes it challenging to address. The other challenge is to make the user in this segment to have updated knowledge and skill through proper training so that they use these technologies to the fullest capacity.”

Latest products for automotive and aerospace industries

 National Instruments:

  • mmWave VST
  • New PXI chassis
  • New USRPs (from NI subsidiary, Ettus)
  • New FlexRIO transceiver
  • New strategic partnership with Mathworks
  • LabVIEW, TestStand, VeriStand, FlexLogger, SystemLink

Anritsu:

Anritsu has been upgrading and introducing test and measurement solution for automotive industry. Anritsu offers a comprehensive range of high performance test systems to test and develop all aspects of the modern car in following area-

  • Wireless connectivity
  • Safety and driver aids
  • In-vehicle networks
  • Intelligent transport systems
  • Electromagnetic interference

Wireless technologies have acquired increasing importance during the last decade in the automotive industry, making the experience of driving safer and more comfortable. All these wireless standards, including mobile, short range wireless and navigation, help to keep the driver connected everywhere, while broadcast technologies are now utilized to keep all of the car occupants connected and entertained.

In addition to FM/AM radio, today’s vehicle incorporates digital radio (DAB) as well as video broadcasting, including DVB and ISDB standards. Anritsu’s portfolio allows testing of these technologies at all stages of the product development, from R&D to production, providing dedicated solutions and universal wireless testers that will ensure your products comply with the latest industry specifications.

LEAVE A REPLY