How Military Embedded Designers Profit from Small Form Factor Systems

The demands from the front line are changing quickly. Gathering and sharing data has become an essential component of the modern military, relying on high performance processing to fuel leadership decisions that enable comprehensive situational awareness, and ensure the overall safety and security of military personnel. This is why military embedded designers have to face the challenge every day to increase the functionality and performance of unmanned or portable systems which are integrated in smaller and smaller packages. Mobile deployments can include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), vetronics and avionics systems. All these environments consist of very small system footprints in order to make room for increased power or performance. As a result, SWaP (Size, Weight and Performance) concerns, along with the need for reliability and a strategic design path to accommodate future upgrades in the same small space become more and more important.


How small is small?

alidated high performance systems based on small form factor Computer-on-Modules (COMs) create a ‘trusted COTS’ design environment, relying on standard-based building blocks to simplify development by offering developers a highly effective starting point for their designs. Now available to meet specific application requirements are complete systems like COBALT which include rugged baseboard, power module, housing and appropriate I/O connectors. These fan-less, fully enclosed systems weigh less than six pounds and offer efficient thermal management in a small 8.5 (W) x 5.5 (D) x 3.9 (H)-inch form factor. A COM Express based system offers one of the smallest form factors available for military systems. The I/O is customizable and designers have ready access to a range of module sizes that optimize SWaP considerations.




Great inner values

But of course the inner values are just as important as the form. Kontron implements a special Rapid Shutdown circuit design on selected by design modules. This provides an onboard mechanism for the system to survive a high-energy pulse such as a nuclear event or high energy electromagnetic pulse (EMP). These types of sealed IP67 systems are geared to support high-rugged applications like vehicle- or helicopter-based computing needs. Systems such as COBALT also leverage the COM Express Type 6 pin-out and its future design options. The importance for developers is that some of the extra PCI Express lanes can be routed to serial-based mezzanine card slots such as mPCIe and XMC to create expansion options. This results in higher performance system capability when compared to devices incorporating earlier pin-out options, as well as an enhanced fourth generation graphics architecture. So designers are enabled with a critical advantage for advanced video applications such as surveillance for situational awareness. Using Kontron’s COBALT, we can also illustrate a sample system based on a COM Express solution and integrating the industry’s most current x86 modules. In this design scenario, system performance can evolve by swapping out modules to access processor advancements and avoid requalification of the design.


Overview: “How Military Embedded Designers Profit from Small Form Factor Systems”

  • Using these certified systems, developers can quickly prototype designs by adding their own application-specific software, and testing functionality without extensive costs or development timelines.

  • Maximizing flexibility with upgradable processors and perfect fit design by virtue of carrier board and mezzanine card options, developers have a fully tested, cost-effective design path that meets mil/aero requirements and gets to market quickly.

  • Small form factor systems provide ideal support to the military’s agile acquisition initiatives that require Proof-of-Concept (PoC)

  • Developers can focus on the I/O customization aspects of their system, including support for both Linux and Windows operating systems.

  • Integrating mezzanine options adds tangible value, allowing developers to create new systems without significant modification to an original base design.

  • Designers can access a range of processor options to scale computing performance as needed for specific application requirements; for example, systems are available which can perform as a very low power Intel Atom processor-based implementation or as a more powerful Intel Core i7 processor system. The pre-validation of shock and vibration environments to the broad spectrum of UAV, tracked vehicle, shipboard and avionics environments makes performance possible in temperatures

What kind of experiences have you had with small factor designs? Do you have visions for the future?

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