HIL Testing Reduces Aircraft Arrestor Control System Field Testing Time by 75 Percent

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"The out-of-the-box capabilities of NI VeriStand made it practical for us to develop an HIL test system, reducing our total testing cost by $735,000."

- Greg Sussman, CLA, Process Automation

The Challenge:
Lowering development cost without affecting product quality by reducing the number of field tests required to validate an NI CompactRIO control system.

The Solution:
Creating a cost-effective hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) test system using NI VeriStand and the LabVIEW Real-Time Module with NI PXI hardware to perform thorough control system operational testing in the lab, which resulted in reducing our field testing time by 75 percent while providing more extensive test coverage for the arrestor system.

Author(s):
Greg Sussman, CLA - Process Automation

Zodiac Aerospace selected National Instruments Silver Alliance Partner Process Automation to develop the control system for its next generation aircraft arresting system. Using NI LabVIEW software and CompactRIO for the control system, along with NI VeriStand and real-time PXI hardware for a HIL test system, Process Automation developed SmartArrest, which has shown significant cost savings over previous system implementations.

The SmartArrest system is designed to safely bring military fighter aircraft to a stop during emergency landing conditions. This land-based system works similarly to the arresting cable system on an aircraft carrier.  As the aircraft lands, it catches the arresting cable spanned across the runway. Two identical braking/control systems are connected to each end of the arresting cable on opposite sides of the runway. Both systems continually communicate over a high-speed, fiber-optic link to share information regarding arrestment parameters and calculate the specific geometry of the arrestment event. When an arrestment is detected, each system adjusts a servo valve to control hydraulic pressure to the cable reel brakes. The applied braking force slows the aircraft to a stop within the defined distance. After each arrestment, parameters such as engagement speed, cross runway position, and total aircraft run-out are stored to a data file to access and review at a later time.

During the development process, we used NI VeriStand to take advantage of existing simulation models created using The MathWorks, Inc. Simulink® software. We then coupled the models to a real-time test system.  NI VeriStand  provided us with the tools we needed to provide a real-time system response; stimulus signal generation; and logging, graphing, and display of crucial control system parameters.

Using this HIL test system, we mitigated significant technical and scheduling risks for the project. NI VeriStand  provided these tools in a clean, well thought out manner that helped our engineers capitalize on their existing skill sets and efficiently and quickly adapt to those changes that inevitably occur during a development cycle.

We could have developed a custom solution, and we did write some LabVIEW code to customize NI VeriStand, but the cost of implementing a completely custom solution would have been significantly higher and created more technical risk. Using NI VeriStand, we took the existing framework and built on it, cutting our development and deployment schedule by a significant amount. This correlated directly to a lower overall system cost for Zodiac Aerospace and a higher return on investment.

Simulink® is a registered trademark of The MathWorks, Inc.

A National Instruments Alliance Partner is a business entity independent from National Instruments and has no agency, partnership, or joint-venture relationship with National Instruments.

Author Information:
Greg Sussman, CLA
Process Automation

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