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Development of a Dynamic Self Configuring Data Acquisition System in a Distributed Multi-Node Aircraft Environment

Matthew Bastian, National Research Council of Canada, NRC, Ottawa, Canada


The Flight Research Laboratory (FRL) of the National Research Council of Canada owns and operates eight research aircraft, each of which requires a realtime data acquisition system (DAS) of some form. Previous data systems consisted of a single realtime computer performing all of the realtime requirements of the DAS. The proliferation of PC based single board computers, their small form factor, low power consumption, and the wide array of input/output hardware available, makes this platform an ideal candidate for use in aircraft. With the introduction of distributed multi-node DAS systems at the FRL, a new hardware and software infrastructure was developed for these systems.

This paper details the hardware used and the software developed to achieve a dynamic selfconfiguring data acquisition system in a distributed multi-node aircraft environment. Integration of the PC based hardware (PC-104) into the aircraft environment is discussed, including such issues as node configuration, and computer platform selection. The software architecture is detailed, introducing the concept of a Resource Manager, the resources it manages, and how it is implemented. A brief review of the two-phase implementation cycle is presented, the first being within a single computer DAS environment and the second, an evolution to a multi-node environment. The experience of using a local Ethernet network for all data exchange and communication is discussed, looking at both the benefits and the drawbacks.

The first phase Resource Manager has been in use for a number of years and is considered mature. The second generation Resource Manager is currently in its late stages of integration into a working aircraft environment and is due to be completed in July 2006. The introduction of a Resource Manager based software architecture has seen many benefits. This paper concludes by reviewing the benefits as well as the lessons learned; what worked and what needs more work. Lastly the role of the flight test engineer (FTE) within this new hardware and software context is discussed.

Tue, 2006-06-13