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Fiber optics in aircraft

Picture of David Piña

David Piña

FERCHAU Engineering GmbH / Bid Engineer


The wiring that incorporates avionics systems for both interconnecting antennas and audio and data communicating is currently composed mainly of copper wires of different diameters with which different aircraft systems communicate via bundles of copper cables that connect a multitude of components. However, the avionic sector requires transmitting an ever increasing amount of information at a higher speed so much so that the electrical wiring based systems cannot absorb these new demands.

Fiber optics are an ideal solution for future aircraft requirements.

There are now two clear trends regarding data transmission in the avionics market: constantly growing transmission speeds and the need to reduce weight. Fiber Optic technology is an ideal response to these two trends in providing for high speed data and immunity to electromagnetic interference that eliminates the need for any type of screening which can often be very expensive due to their weight and complexity. It offers lower wastage, weight and size etc. These advantages make fibre optics suitable for application in aircrafts where space restrictions and electromagnetic interferences could be detrimental.

Currently, aside from the data communications systems, fiber optic technology has been implemented in other aircraft systems such as sensory systems, distributed opening systems and the monitoring systems of the aircraft among others. Furthermore, other areas such as defence and space are upgrading their communication systems in production vehicles by incorporating fiber optics as a replacement or a supplement to conventional electrical wiring making this change transparent to the user.

Therefore, fiber optic technology is revolutionizing the avionics systems and is lightly to be the ideal solution to future aircraft requirements.

There are bundles of copper cables in an aircraft and the signals which they carry are fully replaceable by fiber optics to allow an improvement of the system in various different ways. The main advantages of using fiber optics are:

  • Lower attenuation. A 1550 nm, attenuation = 0.2 dB/km.
  • High power transmission: up to 32 Thz•km.
  • Immunity to electromagnetic interference.
  • Increased security. Fiber Optics is more difficult to puncture and no radiation signals are transmitted externally.
  • Smaller size and weight with greater flexibility compared to coaxical cables. The fiber cable weighs 10% to 30% less than copper.
  • High reliability and long operating life.
  • Has electrical insulation and grounding.
  • Rust free: the glass is chemically stable and thus can prevail in adverse environments.
  • Transmission characteristics are practically unchangable in any temperature.



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