Today's FPGA trends in aerospace and defense applications involve security, tools, and specialization

Click to EnlargeBy John Keller

Information security, advanced FPGA programming tools, and increasing specialization for an ever-broadening number of potential applications are primary trends in today's field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology for aerospace and defense. FPGA's represent one kind of programmable digital processor with many gates that enable systems designers to custom-program the device on the fly for security, functionality, power consumption, and other benefits.

"One of the most important trends coming up now is security," explains Young Kwon, product marketing manager for aerospace and defense at FPGA specialist Xilinx Inc. in San Jose, Calif. We have two different kinds of security: information assurance, which is cryptography and keeping adversaries from decoding what you are saying; and anti-tamper, which comes into play when you want to prevent an adversary from reverse-engineering a piece of equipment."

Xilinx officials pride themselves on the ability of their company's FPGA devices to support on-board cryptography. "We have a unique way that reduces the number of pieces of hardware you need to implement it," Kwon explains. "We have single-chip cryptography where we can do many of these functions in one piece of silicon. We released that capability first in our Virtex 4 FPGAs."

Xilinx also considers itself a leader in anti-tamper technology, which can prevent an adversary from reverse-engineering FPGAs to learn about the capabilities they contain. A Xilinx FPGA with anti-tamper capability "in general will destroy itself, or least destroy the information it contains" in case of an unauthorized attempt to reverse-engineer the device. Reverse engineering essentially seeks to take a device apart to learn its secrets.

Anti-tamper capability is key for today's complex military applications, such as smart munitions, which contain intellectual property that enables U.S. defense capability to stay ahead of those of potentially hostile nations and terrorist organizations.

Where FPGA programming tools are concerned, some of today's most notable technology trends involve helping systems designers comply with the DO-254 standard for assuring quality and safety for airborne electronic hardware for commercial aviation.

"There is an increasing awareness and desire to comply with DO-254, which requires assistance from the tools vendors," says Ken O'Neill, director of marketing for the Space Products Team at the Microsemi SoC Group (formerly Actel) in Mountain View, Calif. "Compliance with DO-254 requires assistance from the FPGA tools vendors because there are requirements to provided documentation and traceability. The tools vendors have been doing a lot to provide easier and more comprehensive ways to ensure that compliance."

In addition, O'Neill says, FPGA tools vendors also are helping device manufacturers with difficult problems like providing triple redundancy for dealing with radiation-induced single-event upsets (SEUs) in space applications. "A synthesis tool that takes care of that redundancy for you is a handy thing to have," he says.

Among the FPGA tools vendors that are helping device manufacturers with DO-254 compliance, O'Neill singles out Mentor Graphics in Wilsonville, Ore., and Aldec Inc. in Henderson, Nev. Among the tools providers helping with tasks like triple redundancy, O'Neill Sites Mentor Graphics and Synopsys Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.

Perhaps most significant of today's trends in FPGAs is the breadth of aerospace and defense applications that these devices enable. "There is greater specialization in FPGAs today, with a greater variety of features in our products and those from other vendors," O'Neill says.

"If you survey the market, you see FPGAs based on DSP [digital signal processing] applications, and different ranges of devices with on-board microprocessors to meet needs for general-purpose processing," O'Neill says. "Some integrate well with the analog world, and some are optimized to minimize power consumption. We see that level of specialization increasing as time moves on."

Embedded computing specialist Mercury Computer Systems Inc. in Chelmsford, Mass., is making a move into electronic warfare and signals intelligence applications, and its engineers find that today's FPGAs -- particularly from Xilinx -- "are very good at the processing that has to happen to deal with the radio frequency spectrum," explains Tom Roberts, solutions marketing manager at Mercury.

"For the counter-IED [counter-improvised explosive device] implementations we have worked on, receiving a signal, understanding its components, and enabling the exciter to understand what kind of frequency it needs -- all really fast and highly parallel -- is all done in the FPGA on XMC cards," says Anne Mascarin, another solutions marketing manager at Mercury.

Field-programmable gate array (FPGA) technology suppliers

FPGA devices

Achronix Semiconductor Corp.; San Jose, Calif.; 408-889-4100; www.achronix.com

Altera Corp.; San Jose, Calif.; 408-544-7000; www.altera.com

Anadigm Inc.; Campbell, Calif.; 480-422-0191; www.anadigm.com

Atmel Corp.; San Jose, Calif.; 408-441-0311; www.atmel.com

BEEcube Inc.; Fremont, Calif.; 510-252-1136; http://beecube.com

Celoxica Ltd.; Abingdon, England; +44 (0) 1235 863656; www.celoxica.com

Lattice Semiconductor Corp.; Hillsboro, Ore.; 503-268 8000; www.latticesemi.com

Microsemi SoC Group (formerly Actel); Mountain View, Calif.; 650-318-4200; www.actel.com

QuickLogic Corp.; Sunnyvale, Calif.; 408-990-4000; www.quicklogic.com

Tekmos Inc.; Austin, Texas; 512-342-9871; www.tekmos.com

Xilinx Inc.; San Jose, Calif.; 408-559-7778; www.xilinx.com

FPGA boards

Acromag Inc.; Wixom, Mich.; 877-295-7092; www.acromag.com

BittWare Inc.; Concord, N.H.; 603-226-0404; www.bittware.com

Connect Tech Inc.; Guelph, Ontario; 519-836-1291; www.connecttech.com

Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing; Ashburn, Va.; 703-779-7800; www.cwcembedded.com

DLP Design Inc.; Allen, Texas; 469-964-8027; www.dlpdesign.com

GE Intelligent Platforms; Charlottesville, Va.; 434-978-5000; www.ge-ip.com

Jacyl Technology; Fort Wayne, Ind.; 260-471-6067; www.jacyltechnology.com

Kontron AG; Poway, Calif.; 888-294-4558; www.kontron.com

Lyrtech; Quebec City; 418-877-4644; www.lyrtech.com

Mercury Computer Systems Inc.; Chelmsford, Mass.; 866-627-6951; www.mc.com

Nallatech Inc.; Eldersburg, Md.; 805-383-8994; www.nallatech.com

Opal Kelly Inc.; Portland, Ore.; 217-391-3724; www.opalkelly.com

Orange Tree Technologies Ltd.; Didcot, England; +44 1235 838646; www.orangetreetech.com

Pentek Inc.; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; 201-818-5904; www.pentek.com

Presco Inc.; Woodbridge, Conn.; 203-389-1129; www.prescoinc.com

TEK Microsystems Inc.; Chelmsford, Mass.; 978-244-9200; www.tekmicro.com

Themis Computer; Fremont, Calif.; 510-252-0870; www.themis.com

Welkin Sciences LLC; Colorado Springs, Colo.; 719-520-5115; www.welkinsciences.com

FPGA intellectual property

Elliptic Technologies Inc.; Ottawa; 613 254-5456; www.elliptictech.com

Inicore Inc.; Newark, Calif.; 510 445 1529; www.inicore.com

The MathWorks; Natick, Mass.; 508-647-7001; www.mathworks.com

National Instruments; Austin, Texas; 800-531-5066; www.ni.com

S2C Inc.; San Jose, Calif.; 408-213-8818; www.s2cinc.com


Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:


  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

Printed Circuit Board Assembly

Printed Circuit Board Assembly (PCB ASSY) is as critical a process as circuit board manufacturing.

XPand6020 | Small Form Factor (SFF) System Featuring XPedite5205 Running Cisco IOS® and XPedite7450

The XPand6020 is a Small Form Factor (SFF) system that features an XPedite5205, which runs Cisco ...

General Micro "Horizon" C299

The C299 Horizon is a third generation, 6U cPCI SBC module based on GMS’ upgradable CPU technolog...

RR2P Removable Canister RAID System

Transportable data storage for mobile field use aboard planes, ships and ground transport. 2U, du...

General Micro "Atom" XPC40X Rugged, Ultra-Small, Ultra-Low-Power Intel Atom™ CPU SBC

The XPC40X Atom is a rugged, low cost, ultra-low power, lightweight, Atom™ based computer system....

General Micro's VS295 Eclipse

The VS295 Eclipse is fifth generation, VME SBC module based on GMS, upgradable CPU technology. It...

ADEPT3000 Automatic Video Tracker

GE Intelligent Platforms ADEPT3000 is a cost-effective SWaP optimized automatic video tracking so...

6U OpenVPX HPEC Starter System

GE Intellligent Platforms new HPEC Application Ready Platforms (HARP) products respond to governm...

DSP280 - Rugged Dual Socket 2nd Gen Intel Quad Core i7 Multiprocessor

The DSP280 is a rugged, 6U OpenVPX dual socket Intel 2nd generation Quad Core i7 multiprocessor d...

XPedite7501 4th generation Intel Core i7 processor-based XMC module

The XPedite7501 is a high-performance, low-power, XMC module based on the 4th generation Intel® C...

Related Companies

DiCon Fiberoptics Inc

Offers fiber optic switches, tunable filters, and VOAs. Founded in 1986, the company is a US based, AS9100 certified,...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...

Harris Corporation

Harris provides advanced, technology-based solutions that solve government and commercial customers' mission critical...

Innovative Integration

  Since 1988, Innovative Integration has grown to become one of the world's leading suppliers of DSP and data ac...

General Micro Systems Inc

Since 1979, General Micro Systems has been providing the most diverse line of single-board computers in the industry....

Winchester Systems Inc

At its founding in 1981, Winchester Systems introduced its first 5 MB disk system for Intel development system users....

Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc (X-ES)

 Extreme Engineering Solutions, Inc. (X-ES) is a leader in the design, manufacture, and support of standard and ...

LEMO USA Inc

Provides a lightweight, compact aluminum connector. M-series connector is focused on the design that requires a MIL-3...

GE Intelligent Platforms

Provides embedded computing solutions. Products include single-board computers, networking products, avionics interfa...

Omnetics Connector Corp

Omnetics Connector Company is a privately held, world class connector design and manufacturing company with over 25 ...
Wire News provided by   

Press Releases

CURTISS-WRIGHT AWARDED CONTRACT BY SIERRA NEVADA CORPORATION

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...

METADATA SUPPORT ENHANCES INDUSTRY-LEADING HD VIDEO MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FROM CURTISS-WRIGHT

Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

Webcasts

Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

All Access Sponsors


Mil & Aero Magazine

June 2015
Volume 26, Issue 6
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE