Cabin Management, Inflight Entertainment, and Connectivity Electronics for Private Aircraft

Interconnectivity hardware and software providing inflight entertainment, cabin management for environmental control, and connectivity for networks and devices.

The Client

The client is a worldwide leader in the production and supply of innovative products for the aviation industry. They specialize in avionics systems and integration, interior lighting, cabin comfort and exterior lighting products for the military, corporate, HOS/VIP, helicopter and air transport markets.

The Need

The client was looking to develop a new product family centered on aircraft connectivity. In one highly configurable electronics platform, they wanted to offer:

  • Inflight entertainment with onboard media storage, moving maps, and streaming media from Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs)
  • Cabin management system for the control of lighting, temperature, and window shades
  • Connectivity to routers, satellite, and passenger electronic devices

The client was looking for a partner to outsource all aspects of the project, including engineering design in hardware, software and mechanical enclosure; tooling; development of prototype units; DO-160 and DO-178 qualification; and LRU production.

RightHand Solution

This was another project that required the use of all the engineering disciplines of RightHand Technologies including electrical engineering, software engineering, mechanical engineering, qualification and manufacturing to create a highly functional, ruggedized platform that met all the client’s requirements. It also was a unique project because the full system included connectivity to several other vendors’ projects, and RightHand engineers needed to help define, implement and test the various levels of interaction.

Every department at RightHand Technologies contributed to the project:

  • Hardware: Multiple circuit boards were designed for processing and IO
  • Software: Board support software including Linux operating system and drivers, communications protocols for configuration and interoperability with other system components, bootloader, and manufacturing test and field utilities.
  • FPGA: I/O mapping and processing
  • Mechanical: Rugged enclosure for DO-160 certification covering durability and EMI suppression
  • Quality: 100% functional testing outlined in detailed Assembly and Test Instructions (ATI), automated Acceptance Test Procedure (ATP)
  • Manufacturing: Assembly tools and fixtures to ensure the manufactured units conform 100% to the qualified design.

This project was interesting in that, as a connectivity device, the engineers at RightHand Technologies needed to interface with many other vendors and their products in order to providing an integrated set of features for the hardware and software in the system including:

  • Application on the iPad: A key feature of the system is that all elements can be controlled by an application on an iPad. RightHand Technologies worked with the app developers to define the interface and data elements in the system so that it could be completely configurable and expandable, and at the same time was sleek and easy to use.
  • Satellite communications hardware: The entire aircraft network can connect to an onboard satellite system, and the electronics and software of the system were designed to interface with various vendors' products.
  • Audio/Video system: The onboard AV system provides various audio and video outputs and controls that need to be configured and fed to through the system to the proper end user devices.
  • Cockpit electronics: Certain cabin management features and moving map features require interface to the cockpit electronics via the ARINC interface.
  • Lighting systems: System wide lighting protocol allows for the user to adjust various lighting products on the aircraft.
  • Passenger control panels: In addition to software on Passenger Electronic Devices (PEDs), users can control some elements of the system with seat-based control panels. These have also been designed and developed by RightHand Technologies.

The Results

RightHand Technologies worked closely with the client, their other vendors, and some key end customers to ensure that the final product implementation met all the requirements.

In addition, the systems qualified to the FAA-required RTCA DO-160 and DO-178 specifications with ease. RightHand Technologies prepared and delivered all of the documentation required for the testing, accompanied the units to the testing labs, obtained FAA certification, and then delivered a completely qualified product to the customer.

The customer is extremely pleased with the full product package and with RightHand Technologies engineering. The product line has been very well received in the marketplace, and the client has returned for several feature enhancements and device add-ons to further expand the device connectivity.