The Modern Aircraft
Aerospace industry is known for its precision and robustness, be it the fuselage design of the aircraft or the piece of code that operates the seat lamps. Flight and cabin systems, which have been an integral part of the plane, have long evolved into full-fledged digital systems. In modern commercial aviation, the increased availability of affordable connectivity options is paving the way for the next-generation of flight and cabin systems backed by a next-generation content delivery system. A system that can automatically deploy services, facilitate information flow and utilize multiple channels of communication to automate the process of data synchronization based on priority and economics.
Traditionally, Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) over VHF has been the only medium of communication to and from the aircraft. However, the data requirements of a modern airliner are pushing the traditional systems to their limits. The industry faces an issue of either using expensive and limited communication pipes for the transfer of flight and cabin data, or make critical data decisions at the gate to avoid expensive mid-air transfers. To some extent, IP communication links including 4G and 5G mobile communication technologies have eased these issues and transformed the aircraft into an Internet of Things (IoT) platform.
A modern commercial aircraft is composed of hundreds of digital systems that communicate amongst each other and also with on-ground servers to ensure proper operations and safety. These systems usually are – predictive maintenance, electronic flight bag, crew services, sensors, weather, traffic, navigation, IFEC and much more. The new connectivity options surely help in uploading and offloading a large amount of data to and from these systems, but doing it efficiently and seamlessly to justify the economics of using these technologies is a question that still needs answering.
The rising expenses and the competitive nature of the industry are driving a constant search for effective means to reduce operational costs and value creation opportunities for passengers. Integration of various technologies by creating a seamless ecosystem of services, and extracting additional usage from existing hardware is one such method. Choosing different data pipes depending on economics, data type and criticality, deployment of services, automating decisions, and harmonizing cockpit and cabin operations are also the further challenges that aerospace industry faces with data communication.
With hardware being a considerable limitation in aerospace, owing to extended compliance and certification cycles, we need to think out of the box to create a solution that capitalizes on digital infrastructure, standardized protocols and existing hardware to create a bi-directional flow of data for the multitude of services that are deployed on-board an aircraft.
Anatomy of Axinom Content Delivery System
Modern software methods based on domain architecture, test-driven workflows, container-based deployment, and orchestration have helped Axinom in creating a unique solution. It’s a solution that solves the issue of robust and secure data transfer, iterative updates, inter-connectivity, content synchronization, interruption management and much more.
The workflow is handled by two core components –
Content Management System (CMS) – Designed to manage all kind of digital content (such as services, IFEC content, ads, customer data, e-commerce items, connectivity options, payments info, , fleets, software updates, etc.) in a single interface and package the content into content sets to be delivered to the vessel. It allows the user to create packages of content and target them to a specific aircraft.
Content Delivery System (CDS) – A delivery solution that allows secure and robust bidirectional content synchronization, using standardized communication protocols and mediums. It is built to transfer data fast, securely, and reliably in any environment.
Axinom CDS supports containerized deployment and orchestration of services, using Docker and Docker Swarm, to on-board servers. Hence benefitting from the easy, fast and scalable delivery and deployment of services as needed.
Features that make this solution unique and cogent:
Depending on the available and enabled pipelines, data type, size, criticality and bandwidth, Axinom Content Delivery Solution (CDS) can choose and switch between the following channels, depending on availability:
- Cellular 4G / 5G
- Wi-Fi networks
- Physical storage devices like USB-stick, HDD and SSD
- Personal devices like crew phones, laptops, tablets
For a secure transfer, Axinom CDS encrypts content using strict encryption standards, implementing a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). Synchronization processes use smart control checksum approach to verify data integrity and identify differences and interruptions between sets of data, allowing optimal transfer approach applied to various connection types and connection quality.
Built with Domain Driven Design (DDD) with Test-Driven Development (TDD) workflow, the solution is tested against multiple functional and non-functional automated tests, before implementing the code, thus making sure that possible errors are dealt with even before completing the components.
As a perfect companion of a modern connected aircraft, Axinom CDS allows automatic deployment and orchestration of independent micro-services for multiple use-cases such as cockpit or cabin data, weather services, sensor systems, predictive maintenance and many more.
Scaling can be achieved in two ways – horizontally, i.e. running some components in the cloud and some on-premises, or dividing them into two machines, and vertically, i.e. adding more physical resources such as RAM or CPUs to the server or re-configuring virtual machines.
The solution has been designed to support bidirectional delivery of content. Hence, uploading of content and data from on-ground servers, as well as offloading of data from cockpit and cabin systems from on-board servers can be achieved seamlessly.
To reduce the amount of data and time that is needed for the transfers, Axinom CDS compares the content sets and updates only the modifications. In addition, it keeps track of content versions.
Axinom CDS manages disconnections during synchronization, in case of interruptions. It allows the successfully synchronized part of the content to be already used on board. Moreover, as soon as the allowed connection is available again, it resumes the synchronization.
Innovative Solution for Tomorrow
The present-day data delivery systems can’t cater to the aircraft of tomorrow that will be a flying IoT device. The sheer amount of information and agility required from these modern vessels make current solutions obsolete.
Moving forward, we can evidently see the need for a solution that enables quick and fast service delivery and deployment, while allowing the ever-growing amount of data across communication pipes. In contrast to the traditional methods, an automated solution like Axinom CDS can drastically reduce delivery cycles and enable revenue generation through ancillary mediums.