The Best SBCs for Defense Applications

Press Office, VersaLogic Corporation, 05/06/21

Defense systems have to meet high standards and pass rigorous certifications. This means that the single board computer within them must also pass extensive design validation testing, shock and vibe testing, and usually meet industrial temperature standards. Considering the length of most government programs, they must also be backed by long-term availability. The suppliers of rugged industrial SBCs for this sector also need to pass rigorous quality certification requirements.

ISO 9001:2015, AS9100D certified company logo

In a previous blog we covered the AS9100 quality standard that satisfies the requirements of DOD, NASA and the FAA. In this blog we’ll focus on the other aspects that are important for the defense sector and also look to the future.

Rugged SBCs for Extreme Environments

Defense applications abound with examples of extreme environments, from the icy cold of the arctic to the heat of the desert, in combination with the shock and vibration experienced in military vehicles and aircraft.

Military Equipment in extreme environmentsMilitary equipment must withstand extreme environments

Moving forward, demands for mechanical ruggedness are likely to get even more severe. With no human pilot, unmanned fighter aircraft will be more agile and won’t have to worry about the impact of g-forces or vibration level on a pilot.

Defense Applications

Defense applications are varied, including helmet mounted displays, biological threat detection systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). In addition to being rugged, the SBCs used in these systems need to be reliable and must have long-term availability to satisfy the demands of a long service life.

Defense sytems experience mechanical stressDefense systems experience high levels of mechanical stress

Small tactical UAV’s require small format SBCs. The Harrier, measuring only 55 x 95 mm, was recently selected for use in an autonomous AI-equipped interceptor drone that is used to detect, pursue, and intercept dangerous/malicious drones.

The similarly-sized Osprey embedded computer, was deployed in an unmanned aerial system (UAS) tasked with a variety of missions ranging from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to counter-UAS operations (C-UAS).

intel apollo lake rugged embedded computerThe Harrier with its small size and ECC memory was designed with UAV/UAS applications in mind

Looking to the Future and More Power to the Edge

Moving more processing power to the edge instead of processing data back in a data center is a common theme in many sectors. The driving forces behind that are three-fold:

  • Reduce latency in order to speed up decision making and response
  • Avoid communication bandwidth bottlenecks
  • Minimize data security risks

Defense and aerospace applications are no different – you can’t get much closer to the edge than these applications. With that in mind, there is a need for increased performance in a compact and rugged format.

The Sabertooth is one such SBC. It features a 6-core Intel® Xeon® processor and on-board fast read/write NVMe storage. Its PCIe/104 three bank expansion connector with x16 PCIe Gen 3 lanes enables connection of GPUs, 10 gigabit network ports, FPGAs and more.

Sabertooth PC/104 embedded computerThe Sabertooth combines high powered edge computing performance, expandability, a compact PC/104 form factor, and operation over -40° to +85°C

The Bottom Line

There are many SBCs to choose from for defense and aerospace applications. Each use case may have different requirements for I/O and performance as well as varied size, weight, and power (SWaP) constraints. However, what these applications do generally share in common are the needs for:

  • High quality design and manufacture, backed up by an AS9100 certified quality management system
  • SBCs that are reliable with high MTBF
  • Solutions that are rugged and can withstand extremes of operating temperatures, shock, and vibration
  • Suppliers that can continue to deliver products for years or decades

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