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What Is Avionics in Aircraft?

Avionics is a combination of two terms: aviation and electronics. In simple terms, it is the electronic systems used in aircraft (also in spacecraft and artificial satellites) that often include flight control systems, engine controls, flight recorders, communications, navigation, threat detection, weather radar, electro-optic (EO/IR) systems, fuel systems, and performance monitors.

Depending on the aircraft type, some require simple systems such as searchlights for a police helicopter, while others demand more sophisticated functions like those used in warplanes.

Here, we explain the seven basic systems that make up modern avionics.

Navigation

Avionics systems use satellites like WAAS or GPS, ground-based ratio, and/or interior navigation programs to help pilots determine their position above the earth’s surface.

Today, most navigation technologies have multiple systems for additional reliability (for example, GPS for main navigation and radio systems in case of emergencies).

By contrast, older aircraft that used VOR and LORAN were less efficient that they required the pilots to plot their course on a paper map first.

Communications

The communications system, being one of the most essential components of avionics, connects pilots to ground crew and authorities.

As of this writing, the most common airband is between 118 MHz and 136.976, with slight differences between military vessels, commercial aircraft, and international planes.

Meanwhile, some aircraft avionics can even reach artificial satellites.

Weather systems

They warn pilots about excessive precipitation, turbulence, and other harsh weather conditions. As a result, pilots can adjust their planes’ altitude to keep a safe flight path.

Nowadays, you can access affordable weather systems for light aircraft that can detect lightning, storm activities, etc.

Monitoring systems

They include gauges, dials, and other similar instruments that evolved in a more computer-based system instead of manual models that you can find in older aircraft.

However, the advancements come with a downside, especially if the pilot wants to balance automation with some manual functions.

Fuel system

Every aircraft needs fuel systems that calculate the remaining fuel and manage other related tasks to ensure efficient fuel usage. While you can easily pull over a car to the side of the road when it’s running out of fuel, the same thing can spell disaster in airplanes.

Collision avoidance and traffic alert

This technology detects other aircraft and alerts pilots about possible collisions. It comes with software that provides instructions after seeing potential accidents and ground-proximity warning systems for additional safety.

Flight control

Flight control was initially used in bomber planes to keep them steady during an air raid, but in later years, it evolved to prevent pilot error, especially during landing and takeoff. Today, it is considered one of the most critical avionics systems that the FAA even requires its frequent testing to ensure aircraft safety.

Conclusion

Monoplanes, commercial aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, spacecraft, and business jets all use avionics that performs a wide range of functions.

The more complex the plane is, the more sophisticated the electronic systems it needs. Additionally, the most advanced avionic systems integrate multiple functions to simplify maintenance, improve performance, and even keep the cost down.

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