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Navigation-grade ITAR-free Certifiable Equipment for the Navigation of Air Vehicle, based on FOG technology

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NICENAV (Navigation-grade ITAR-free Certifiable Equipment for the Navigation of Air Vehicle, based onFOG technology)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2018-03-31

Inertial Reference System/Inertial Navigation System (IRS/INS) is a navigation aid that uses a self-contained navigation technique to track position and orientation of an object, thanks to the information provided by an Inertial Measurement Unit, which measures the accelerations on the 3 axes, and 3 gyros, which measure angular velocities relative to the inertial space. The IRS market for civil aircraft applications currently suffers from two major limitations:
1) ITAR regulations affect the business of high performance INS/IRS solutions: International Traffic in Arms Regulation is a regulation defined by the US government and controlled by the US Department of State for the control of the export of US-origin items specifically designed, modified, configured or adapted for sensitive dual-use applications, and of related technical data and services.
ITAR regulations represent a real showstopper for industry players due to export restrictions and complex rules for respecting ITAR-compliance during the whole life-cycle of the equipment. The industry is then expected to favour suppliers having no export restriction.
2) At present for civil airborne applications, most of ITAR-free IRS solutions are based on RLG technology: RLG is a consolidated but yet very expensive technology as it is based on delicate manufacturing processes with very specific components, which requires large and complex production facilities, as well as expensive maintenance.
RLG proves an obsolete technology that will be soon, progressively replaced by FOG technology. NICENAV IRS product (P/N PCFN050AC) will be the first IRS on the market to find a solution for the above mentioned market limitations, since:
• It does not rely on any component or design/development service or data to be provided by US under the ITAR regulations and will not depend on US export licensing rules;
• It is based on FOG technology;
• It guarantees the best peak performance with lower production and maintenance costs, lower weight and smaller size than competing solutions on the same target application,
This will grant the product to be compliant at the highest safety level to airworthiness requirements and ETSO certified by EASA and FAA.
NICENAV is the entrepreneurial project of CNS over the next decade, forecasted to position the company among top 10 Navigation solution providers worldwide and top 3 in Europe. The goal is to accelerate the entry-time in the market to respond to the growing interest from clients. The achievement of TRL9 is the natural target of NICENAV and SME-Instrument is the best route to reduce the time-to-market while maintaining the technological and market advantage over competitors.
Under WP1, CNS carried out the complete re-engineering of both hardware and software baseline configuration of the available IRS products for airborne application, with the aim to realize a new generation of compact and lighter IRS. The system technical description was complemented with information regarding HW/SW interfaces of the product and with the details of the calibration process of FOG-based inertial measurement units. A Test Equipment was developed with the purpose of supporting the system acceptance test automation and the SW verification tests of NICENAV product.
Under WP2, efforts were devoted to the creation of a solid basis for the overall, complex process of HW certification, dictated by the DO-254 guidelines. A plan for HW aspects of certification was released for compliance with the DO-254 requirements. Hardware requirements were collected to define the specification of the programmable logic of the PCFN050AC unit derived from higher level requirements.
A similar plan was adopted for the SW aspects of the NICENAV development under WP3: SW certification aspects, dictated by the DO-178C guidelines, were analysed and detailed, and a SW requirements document, providing consistent and complete description of the high-level requirements for the NAV CSCI of the NICENAV product was drafted. The new PCFN050AC model, target of NICENAV project, was designed starting from the existing airborne INS, and two prototypes were developed and tested in their functionalities, performance and reliability.
The SW Certification processo was completed in WP3 and in WP4 the flight testing activity was performed on several Flying platforms.
The successfull submission to EASA and ENCA of ADOA, POA and ETSO certification was carried out also in WP4.
Customer development activities were performed in order to establish and consolidate contacts and strategic partnership with potential adopters of the NICENAV product. This will facilitate the introduction of NICENAV in the target market areas identified by the business development team at the company.
There are currently two options applicable in high-end navigation grade solutions for airborne applications, Ring Laser Gyro and Fiber Optic Gyro technology. A technological alternative, based on Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems gyros has presently become state-of-the-art technology for low accuracy solutions, while Hemispherical Resonating Gyroscope technology is emerging, which however proves very expensive, and is then used mainly for space applications. FOG and RLG technologies are based on the same physical principle called Sagnac effect, but their designs are very different technologically speaking. FOG has the following advantages respect to RLG:
- Simple And Controllable Manufacturing: FOG uses optical component technologies developed for the telecom industry and whose lifetime and reliability are proven on a large scale. Manufacturing is an assembly of these standard components and is competitive even with small production quantities. Manufacturing costs 20-30% cheaper than RLG;
- Mean Time between Failures = 10-12 years: FOG is a solid-state device and as such it does not generate any acoustic vibration, it is highly reliable over a very long period of time and does not require any preventive maintenance. Maintenance costs 40% cheaper than RLG;
- Easily scalable: FOG technology is easily scalable just changing the length and diameter of the coil while keeping the same other optical components.
It is clear there is business opportunity to enter the IRS market for civil aircraft application with an innovative solution based on FOG technology. Considering the segmentation of the IRS market for civil aircrafts depending on geographic area, about 50% of the total end-user market is outside America. On the other hand, production is concentrated in America (85%) evidencing the large export problems related to ITAR regulation in this sector. This confirms that opportunity exists for EU producers to cover the portion of EU and Asian market presently covered by US production, subject to ITAR regulations.
ITAR–free request count for approx. 52% of the total IRS market for civil applications (conservative hypothesis, since additional demand of ITAR-free INS could be due to the request of US companies).
CNS has programmed an investment for R&D of 10% of the expected turnover in the next 3 years (18 M€). The 50% of this value will be targeted to NICENAV product line development, covering the part of the project budget not funded by EC. The cumulated EBIT from the NICENAV product line, after 5 years from the launch of the project will amount to 14.09M€, 7 times the investment required.