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Compact aircraft computer takes flight with Ubuntu

Apr 13, 2018 — by Eric Brown 1,439 views

Kontron’s “ACE Flight 1600 Gateway Router” avionics computer runs Linux on a Bay Trail Atom, and provides a 5-port, L2-managed GbE switch, 4G LTE Advanced-Pro, 802.11ac, and DO-160G compliance.

Kontron’s has added to its ACE Flight product line with a compact low-end router computer designed for small commercial jets and business jets. The fanless ACE Flight 1600 Gateway Router is a small form factor avionics networking platform that consolidates wireless connectivity, switching, routing, and security features. “A typical routing application is the secure interface from client devices onboard the aircraft to SATCOM or Air-To-Ground connectivity links,” says Kontron.

ACE Flight 1600 Gateway Router
(click image to enlarge)

The ACE Flight 1600 Gateway Router runs Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on a 1.5GHz quad-core Atom E3845 SoC from Intel’s Bay Trail generation. You get 4GB DDR4 with ECC and 64GB eMMC, some of which is used up by the OS and pre-installed software. An L2-managed switch handles 5x Gigabit Ethernet ports, made available via J2, J3, and J4 rear connectors. There’s also a direct rear-side GbE port with a J2 connector and a front-side GbE with an RJ45 port.

Wireless features include a 4G LTE Advanced-Pro cellular radio supported by dual mini-SIM slots. There is also an option for an 802.11ac WiFi radio with 3x front-panel RF QMA connections.


The ACE Flight 1600 is further equipped with dual USB 2.0 ports: one on a rear-panel J2 and the other on a standard front panel port. Also on the front panel are a mini-DisplayPort and a mini-USB port with RS232 signals.

ACE Flight 1600

An ARINC 429 serial data bus offers 2x Rx and 1x Tx fixed channels, and there are 4x in and 2x out ESD/opto-isolated “aircraft discrete” interfaces via a J1 port. The system offers TPM 1.2 and optional ISDN Channel 2B+D.

The ACE Flight 1600 complies with the DO-160G environmental and ruggedization standard from the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), with certification pending. The system features “quick installation locking connectors for the I/O interfaces and quick-connect RF connections for the cellular and WiFi RF interfaces,” says Kontron.

Turnkey software is provided with network routing, wireless, security, and operator interface functions. If you want to modify it, there’s an Ubuntu board support package with drivers, libraries, APIs, “Built-in-Test,” and example code, says Konton. Long-term service contracts are available for extended hardware warranty, software support, and security module updates.

ACE Flight 4780 MODMAN (left) and ACE Flight 4608

Most of Kontron’s ACE Flight computers are larger aircraft servers that run Linux or Windows on Intel Core processors. These include the ACE Flight 4800, the smaller, new ACE Flight 904, and the “coming soon” ACE Flight 4780 MODMAN, which runs Ubuntu on a quad-core Intel Xeon E3-1505L. Earlier this week at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, where Kontron unveiled the ACE Flight 1600 Gateway Router, the company announced that its new ACE Flight 4608, which runs Ubuntu on an octa-core Xeon D-1539, has been selected by Global Eagle as the Server Management Unit (SMU) for its next-generation Airconnect aircraft communications system.

Further information

The ACE Flight 1600 Gateway Router appears to be available for order now at an undisclosed price. Kontron has secured initial program commitments for several hundred units from two major aerospace customers, with installations ramping up in the second half of 2018. More information may be found in Kontron’s ACE Flight 1600 announcement and product page.

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