Media Sharing Server for Business Aircraft

Bulkhead Display

Media Server hardware and application for business class aircraft cabin installation that can wirelessly stream Hollywood-protected content to up to ten iOS devices and two cabin displays, plus supports numerous other personal hand-held devices.

The Client

The client is a pioneer in the development and deployment of innovative communication and aviation electronic solutions for both commercial and government applications. They have world-class expertise in flight deck avionics, cabin electronics, mission communications, and information management.

The Need

The client was looking to roll out an innovative cabin entertainment system for business jets allowing wireless integration of passenger content with handheld devices and cabin displays for easy sharing of entertainment and business related media. Specifically, this system would deliver the entire Apple Media home experience to the passengers on the aircraft. The server hardware would store up to a terabyte of Apple iTune content, such as Hollywood movies, tv shows and music, as well as allow a passenger to share content stored on a personal device with other wireless devices in the system or display stored content on the cabin displays. The client required RightHand Technologies to deliver a turnkey solution for the Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) that included engineering design in hardware, software configuration setup and self test, and mechanical design of a custom enclosure. When finished, the unit had to be FAA certified to RTCA DO-160 and DO-178 Level E.

RightHand Solution

This project was unique because the main output was NOT a fully custom designed product like most customer requests. Instead, the assignment for this project was the design of a ruggedized, FAA certified package that included a collection of Commercial Off-the-Shelf products (COTS). The COTS devices in this case were Apple products: two Apple TVs, a MAC mini, and a terabyte of Silicon Storage Device (SSD) storage.

All departments at RightHand Technologies contributed to the success of the project:

  • Electrical: RightHand Technologies hardware engineers designed and built a system of custom circuit boards to connect the two Apple TVs to the MAC Mini and the SSD media storage units. The custom electronics also uses 28VDC aircraft-worthy power with discrete power control and provides a managed Ethernet switch, a fan with temperature controls, two HDMI interfaces to the Apple TVs, and ARINC compliant connectivity to the aircraft.
  • Software: The device supports the Apple Lion OS, and RightHand Technologies software engineers added the required custom firmware for special sensor drivers and wrote the application for a Built in Test (BIT). They also designed test software for both certification testing and for manufacturing acceptance test procedures.
  • Mechanical: Heat dissipation and electromagnetic interference (EMI) suppression are always a concern with aviation electronics, especially when incorporating COTS devices. RightHand Technologies mechanical engineers designed a specialized lightweight aluminum enclosure to accommodate proper airflow for cooling while containing any EMI emissions from the COTS and custom hardware boards. For one particular COTS component, it was necessary to create a specially cooled micro environment around the part. This enabled the unmodified part to sustain the harsh on-aircraft environment.
  • Certification: Once built, the completed units were taken to the labs for certification testing. The system passed all the environmental, electrical and structural compliance requirements required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • Manufacturing: Assembly tools and fixtures were built to ensure the manufactured units conform 100% to the qualified design. The factory ensured quality of every unit with 100% functional testing outlined in detailed Assembly and Test Instructions (ATI) and automated Acceptance Test Procedure (ATP).

The Results

Working tightly within the customer’s procedures, RightHand Technologies not only produced the final Media Server LRU unit meeting all the technical requirements, they also maintained the schedule for the intermediate delivery milestones and reviews required by the client’s strict internal processes. Deliverables included:

  • Proof of Concept Prototypes
  • Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR)
  • Critical Design Review (CDR)
  • Proof of Design Units (PODs)
  • Test Readiness Review
  • Proof of Manufacturing Units (POMs)
  • Production Readiness Review
  • Qualification Test Review
  • First Article Inspections (FAI)

The Application and Media Server Device was integrated into the client’s Inflight Entertainment System and was immediately adapted by a key business jet manufacturer as standard equipment offering.