The following three key industry standards govern the way calibration is done around the world today: ISO/IEC/EN 17025, ANSI/NCSL Z540.1-1994 (R2002) and ISO 9000. Local governmental regulations may add requirements beyond these standards too.
As high-end technology becomes available to the civilians, the internal and external threats are also evolving rapidly and becoming more varied, which means new technology needs to be developed and deployed even more quickly to keep the world safe.
Public safety radios have been upgraded from analogue to digital since the 1990s because of the limitations of analogue transmission and technological advances and expanded capabilities of digital radio. However, varying user protocols and different public safety radio spectrum made it difficult to achieve interoperability and widespread acceptance of digital radio among the public safety agencies. Standards such as the European Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) and Project 25 (P25 or APCO-25) are suites of digital radio standards that have been designed for use by safety agencies, aimed at improving the interoperability of these services in times of urgency.
“On a more specific level, P25—a public safety communications standard dedicated to ensuring interoperability in communications—is making its way into military border security and policing. Additionally, new types of tools are needed to enable analysis of live signal environments and rapidly detect and identify suspicious or illegal radio activity,” informs Stephen.
The new tools targeting Project 25 are capable of remote testing capability, adjacent channel broadcast and secondary control channel broadcast amongst other features. Remote testing capability allows you to create a ‘virtual’ instrument that redirects to a remote user for testing and monitoring.
Modularity and automated test equipment
Going modular seems to be one of the key trends in test equipment requirement for defence and aerospace. At Autotestcon 2012, a premier international conference focusing on military test, a lot of the content was focused on modular platforms like VXI, PXI and AXIe. It’s pretty obvious too as going modular enables the engineers to reduce the total footprint of the equipment that the users need to carry to the field. In essence, there would be no more redundant power supplies and displays cluttering the hangar or camp wherever the equipment is used.
The cost of ongoing, long-term T&M support must be affordable, and in line with the shifts between programme and operational budgets
— Gautam Awasthi, GM-marketing, EMG, Agilent Technologies India
Adesh Jain, applications consultant, Agilent Technologies, explains, “Modular instruments have advantages when it comes to footprint (or space occupied), cost when the number of channels for measurement is high, flexibility to a great extent to design own test setup and high throughput.”
This years’ Autotestcon focused on “mission assurance through automated test equipment (ATE),” which also accounts for the increased presence of modular instruments. The combination of modular instrumentation, automated test equipment and software clearly defines a strong trend in T&M for military applications.
Over the last few years, the industry reached a tipping point in automated test and is now making a large-scale switch to PXI
— Denver Dsouza, senior technical consultant, National Instruments India
Denver Dsouza, senior technical consultant, National Instruments India, explains the growth of automated test and modular platforms: “Over the last few years, the industry reached a tipping point in automated test and is now making a large-scale switch to PXI. In a recent survey of test managers from around the world conducted by NI, over 70 per cent of test managers indicated they will use PXI as the core of at least one of their next auto-mated test systems. This is in contrast to only 30 per cent of test managers who will continue to use rack-and-stack instrumentation.”
Automated test is a priority for a lot of T&M firms. Stephen says, “Aeroflex recently released an integrated microwave test system which is a turnkey ATE system-in-a-box designed for rapid production testing of aerospace and defence microwave and RF components and modules, including T/R modules, amplifiers and mixers. It is designed to reduce the cost of production test by eliminating multiple test instruments, ATE development cost and maintenance.”
In a nutshell
The immense growth of hardware performance, coupled with advanced software architecture, has helped companies worldwide to build more robust test and measurement systems for the aerospace and defence sector.