Rockwell Collins Adopts Doodle Labs’ Industrial WiFi Transceivers for Use on Airbus A320s

Rockwell Collins partnered with Doodle Labs to enhance the Wi-Fi capabilities on the second generation of their innovative FOMAX system. The two companies worked closely to meet the demanding requirements set forth by the end-customer, Airbus.

Business Challenge

Rockwell Collins was selected by aerospace giant Airbus to supply the FOMAX (Flight Operations and Maintenance Exchanger) system for its A320 line of planes. The system supports a variety of wireless connectivity, and is a vital part of the Airbus Skywise big-data analytics platform that unlocks advanced insights for airlines. The FOMAX system is a real-time black box that securely transmits critical data used by flight staff while in the air and on the ground related to weather, flight planning, maintenance, and performance. Once a plane lands, the FOMAX system streams a wealth of critical maintenance & performance data to operations hubs on the ground, which is where a high-powered WiFi transceiver is required.

The first-generation FOMAX system was already in production and used the SSR-7000Secure Server Router for wireless connectivity. For the second-generation, Airbus identified a need for a more robust and high-performance solution. To this end, they required the Rockwell Collins team to deliver a second generation Secure Server Router with a WiFi radio that met the following criteria:

  • 802.11ac compliant – Compliance to the 802.11ac WiFi standard ensures broad compatibility with other devices and helps future-proof the solution.
  • High throughput – The more data the planes generate, the more throughput the FOMAX system requires. A high throughput WiFi radio helps prevent bottlenecks anddelays. 
  • Operate at temperatures as low as-40°C – One of the unique challenges Rockwell Collins faced in sourcing a radio was finding one that could operate at the extreme cold temperatures in the Airbus spec. Many WiFi radios simply aren’t able to reliably operate at -40° Celsius.
  • RF Kill support – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)requires that any solution the team deployed in this airborne application have a built-in “RF Kill” switch to directly turn off transmission.
  • FCC & CE compliance – Any solution implemented for Airbus had to meet standards set by FCC, CE, and IC.
Additionally, the Rockwell Collins team faced a very ambitious timeline that offered little wiggle room. They had to deliver a solution that met all the Airbus requirements and go to production within 12 months.
 
Solution

To meet the project requirements, Rockwell Collins 2017 Engineer of The Year Frédéric Trincal, selected a partner that could not only provide the hardware required to meet the specifications, but also the engineering & QA expertise to ensure the radios were properly integrated and able to meet stringent quality standards. To this end, the Rockwell Collins team partnered with Doodle Labs and leveraged the ACM-DB-2U Industrial WiFi Transceiver for the project.

Throughout the integration process, the teams at Doodle Labs and Rockwell Collins worked together extensively on the design, implementation, and quality aspects of the project, working hand-in-hand in both Singapore and Cedar Rapids. Doodle Labs’ manufacturing partners were also vetted to pass stringent requirements set forth by the aviation industry.

As is to be expected with any ambitious engineering project, the teams encountered challenges along the way. For example, one of the components used in the ACM-DB-2Uwould not perform reliably at the extreme –40°C temperatures. To address this issue, Doodle Labs developed and implemented a number of quality control processes specifically for Rockwell Collins. For example, each and every radio is tested to ensure functionality at –40°C prior to shipment. In addition, the Doodle Labs team worked with its supplier to develop firmware patches to further improve reliability.

 
Results

With the support of Doodle Labs, Rockwell Collins’ FOMAX system met development and production deadlines and is now shipping the new SSR-7620Secure Server Router to Airbus. Given the complexity of the SSR manufacturing and testing process, Doodle Labs works directly with the Rockwell Collins forecasting team to meet production demands, including occasionally running off-cycle production runs of the ACM-DB-2U.

As a result of the Doodle Labs and Rockwell Collins partnership, the second-generation FOMAX system has been a resounding success. Every new Airbus A320 jet now includes an SSR with a Doodle Labs WiFi radio. This has further enhanced the success of the Skywise analytics platform, enabling Airbus to bring new insights to the aerospace sector and further drive innovation. 

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