The U.S. military’s networked warfare concept requires tight integration between all inputs, but embedded components such as sensors have largely been overlooked as this new warfare architecture has evolved. Mercury Computer Systems recently rolled out its Converged Sensor Network, which links together a range of sensors so they can be more readily accessed by computers and controllers that typically use more complex networks. It’s targeted at manned and unmanned aircraft, which are both employing more sensors.
The CSN architecture leverages the RapidIO standard, which moves data at up to 6.5 Gbaud. Its ability to multicast data to many addresses is an important factor for sensors, explained Tom Roberts, Mercury’s Product Marketing Manager. These sensor networks will augment ethernet or other networks on the aircraft.
“Aircraft already have networks, but they haven’t included sensors,” said Roberts. CSN improves data availability for deeply embedded sensors, he added. The architecture is designed for the multiplicity of technologies used on military aircraft.
“You can connect a mix of sensors: radar, sonar, video,” said Ian Dunn, Chief Technologist, Mercury. High-resolution video is becoming increasingly common, he added.
This approach lets tactical managers get information quickly to authorized users via industry-standard networking. At the same time, it enables the combination of information from different types of sensors to provide more in-depth intelligence. For example, an IR image overlay on a radar image of a parking lot would register heat signatures for vehicles recently used.
Using a network eliminates much of the effort now expended when sensors are added to an aircraft. The command and communication data environment can be flatter, which lets both programmers and mission control personnel manage more resources as features on the network.
“The need for users to write gateway software has evaporated. They can reach right into this architecture and manage data,” said Dunn.
The architecture is designed to help move technology from research labs into the field quickly. Government researchers often develop complex networks on clustered computers and then spend copious time converting their software to their targeted computing system, which typically has much less computing power. Mercury’s technology makes it much simpler to port this code to the network, Dunn noted.