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Aircraft Computers Power Up to Handle AI

Small form factor, ruggedized computer packs the power to run AI and other advanced avionics workloads.

Spencer Chin

July 5, 2023

2 Min Read
Mercury Computers’ Rock-4 computer provides the processing power to add AI and other high-level processing capabilities to advanced avionics applications.

With aerospace and defense companies, shrinking internal systems to shave weight has long been a key goal. But meeting these requirements  has become more challenging as OEMs require  more intelligence and processing power. Mercury Systems has developed a small form factor, ruggedized mission computer with sufficient power and processing capability to run AI and other advanced avionics workloads.

Called ROCK 4, the mission computer incorporates the  latest 11th gen Intel® Core™ i7 processors with built-in AI and hardware accelerators to run advanced avionics workloads. This enables existing air- and ground-based platforms to be rapidly upgraded with new sensors and mission applications that increase safety and effectiveness.

According to Christian Ruppert, Director of Product Engineering, the computer is now being evaluated mission-critical aviation applications, including law enforcement helicopters to run AI-powered search and rescue and surveillance applications and process video for multiple cockpit displays. Ruppert added the computer is also drawing interest from other markets, including drones and small vehicles.

The computer features Mercury’s BuiltSAFE commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) elements and artifacts, which have been tested, certified, and fielded over three decades on airborne platforms to deliver optimal performance and accelerate safety-critical systems integration. The modular, reusable, BuiltSAFE technologies maximize interoperability and speed technology refresh by minimizing the need for recertification.

Related:Exploring Challenges and Advancements in Urban Air Mobility

In addition, ROCK-4 meets Design Assurance Level D (DAL-D) classifications  for use in safety-critical applications.The DAL classifications, which range from A to E specify different safety-critical standards for computers and other key aircraft systems.

The computer has a 4x4 video/sensor switch with capture and processing to connect video to four displays. It incorporates up to 1080p60 (full HD) video capabilities and a range of avionics I/O to capture and process camera feeds. The stackable, passively cooled, and 3 kg lightweight computer is easy to install and scale.

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected].



About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor with Design News, covering the electronics beat.

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