Francisco Sepúlveda
Director General

EMC Testing A Difference Maker as Planes Become More Autonomous

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 14:02

Airplanes are increasingly incorporating technology and reducing manual processes, to the point that many aircraft can now take off and land automatically, with the pilot acting only as a failsafe in case something goes wrong. As the aircraft becomes more autonomous by integrating electronic equipment and software, ElectroMagnetic Compatibility (EMC) compliance and testing become increasingly important to the safety of flyers, according to Francisco Sepúlveda, Director General of Sistemas e Ingenieria de EMC (SI-EMC), a specialized provider of EMC training and test solutions.

“If there is too much electromagnetic noise caused by electronic devices such as computers, radios, or smartphones inside an airplane, it can interfere with the aircraft’s equipment,” says Sepulveda. “The use of electronic equipment, software, and antennas inside the aircraft is essential and with the growing integration of these, EMC studies and testing ensure airplane equipment does not interfere with the correct functioning of each.”

"Proper EMC testing that follows aerospace standards can be the difference between life and death," says Sepúlveda. “For safety, all electronic equipment needs to be working correctly, all the time. If not, the airplane could crash,” he says. “Many aircraft accidents due to interference from atmospheric discharge, electric transients or signal interference can be prevented if EMC design and tests are performed correctly. For that reason, strong testing is the aerospace sector’s goal to ensure the best safety and quality products.”

SI-EMC provides technical training on EMC regulations for aircraft, including Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) DO-160G, which also regulates all electromagnetic emissions from antennas and electronic equipment in an aircraft. This regulation must be closely followed by manufacturers to ensure safety. The company designs and builds complete solutions for EMC tests; such as anechoic chambers, which are radio frequency (RF) shielded rooms with electromagnetic (EM) wave absorbers to get a nonreflective echo-free volume for testing aircraft components.

Among the tools SI-EMC employs in its studies are numeric simulations and modeling with FEKO, an EM simulation software, which simulates how an antenna should radiate and the direction of greatest radiation. “If the simulation is correct, it is possible to save lot of design and test time for components or electronic circuits. With a computer, it is possible to create a virtual reality that represents the fuselage, boarded antennas, circuits, their behavior and other data,” says Sepúlveda.

Working with advanced technologies requires a labor force equipped with the appropriate knowledge, and Sepúlveda says it is imperative that Mexico continue developing this talent. “Design and testing will evolve in line with the processes that are already in place to perform assembly. If the aerospace sector benefits the country’s economic and technological development, no one can stop it. For that reason, it is increasingly important to increment EMC compliance.” SI-EMC works with OEMs coming to Mexico by integrating their equipment, electronics, antennas or electric harnesses. Sepúlveda says the sector has extremely high standards, as it cannot work with cheap materials. “Everything needs to be high-quality and follow all EMC technical regulations to ensure maximum airplane safety.”

Sepúlveda sees significant potential in Mexico’s aerospace industry. “Many foreign businesses are interested in Mexico, which will lead to the development of more capabilities beyond maquilas,” he says. “These companies realize that they can also do research and development in the country. The entire design, testing and manufacturing process for an aircraft and its components can be done in Mexico.”

SI-EMC expects to grow significantly in 2017. One of its goals is for potential clients to recognize the company as a Mexican specialist fully familiar with the requirements of local and international regulations, and which can develop solutions and training for EMC applications. “Investing on training and technical knowledge locally,” Sepúlveda says, “will help companies to save money, speed up product design and compliance because there would no longer be a need to send engineers abroad for special training.”