Advances in electronics have revolutionized almost every industry, and the field of flight is no different. Modern aviation couldn’t exist without sophisticated electronics. While the avionics sector continues to grow, there are a few very visible examples that help to illustrate just how much modern aircraft has come to rely on cutting-edge gadgetry.
Electrical Engineering on the Ground
One of the more obvious areas where avionics have revolutionized flight is on the tarmac. Since passengers and members of the mainstream press see ground crews whenever they fly, there’s a good chance that these advances stick in their minds more than any other. Radar stations leverage the power of artificially intelligent systems to automatically calculate the odds of any given blip coming from a false positive. This has allowed airports to offer far more accurate weather information to pilots, which helps reduce the risk of serious accidents.
Voice synthesizer technology gives pilots the freedom to listen to this data beamed to them from the ground without taking their eyes off anything. Early ground warning systems tended to have awkward-sounding voices that could be difficult to listen to. Newer equipment is much more effective in this respect.
Technical crews on the ground have been able to take advantage of steps forward in technology as well. For instance, those deploying machine tools on the runways will normally work with a high-end hydraulic mule to increase the life of individual aircraft components. Mechanics can now keep airframes flying longer and with better safety records because of this sort of equipment.
Enhanced Safety from Better Technology
Digital warning systems and meteorological beacons are the most important safety advances avionics technology has brought air travelers. Flight crews always know when they’re on a potentially dangerous course. Autopilot systems are now fed a steady stream of digital data that ensures they won’t start to make poor decisions when activated.
While autopilots still have to be operated with human supervision, they’re at least better when it comes to picking a path. Navigational aids like maps and other diagrams are far more detailed now than in the past, which is also helpful for those flying through unfamiliar territory.
Unauthorized air traffic control transmissions are still a major problem, especially considering how easy it is to order sophisticated flight electronics online. Crackers are usually thought of as something you’d run into online, but they’re also actively trying to hijack flight communications. Specialists are starting to talk about using some sort of digital system for voice communication, but avionics engineers are developing narrow bandwidth amplitude modulation protocols that leverage existing analog technologies.
Viewing The World Through a Glass Cockpit
Pilots are now sitting inside better-serviced aircraft than at any other point in flight history, but they’re also being asked to deal with a massive amount of information overload. In many cases, they’re forced to make quick decisions based on more data inputs than one person can handle at any given time. Glass cockpit technology allows them to get an at-a-glance view of all this information through a single digital dashboard as opposed to a conventional instrument panel.
Technologists used to believe that flight dynamics wouldn’t ever be so demanding as to require digital displays. Commercial aviators started demanding better equipment as early as the 1970s, but modern display and projection equipment made it possible to keep them informed without overwhelming them.
Altimeters and even fuel gauges are tied into a display in any plane that uses this kind of system. Flight profiles might recommend different gauges at different times, so modern glass cockpit designs even let users switch the displays around if necessary. These are as easy to update as a preferences sheet would be on a piece of desktop software.
Avionics equipment can consist of anything from the humblest of searchlights to the most advanced radar scanners currently on the market. Engineers constantly look at ways to improve both ends of the equation, so it’s easy to assume that countless new advancements are on the horizon for general and commercial aviation hardware.