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Avionics Certifiable Ethernet ACE

Researchers at the FHNW are developing a Media Access Controller (MAC) for Gigabit Ethernet for aviation. Functional safety plays a particularly important role here.



Embedded Systems, Ethernet, FPGA, Avionics


Development of the MAC for the Avionics Certifiable Ethernet (ACE) according to the safety standards RTCA DO-254 and FAA CAST-33 with the maximum permissible error probability of level DAL A.


The company Mercury Mission Systems International from Lancy next to Geneva develops electronic assemblies for use in aviation. In modern aircraft, Ethernet is responsible for the complete exchange of information. In contrast to the conventional Ethernet standard AFDX, the new "Avionics Certifiable Ethernet" or ACE should be faster, simpler and cheaper.


The Institute for Sensor Technology and Electronics FHNW develops and refines the processes for the development of an FPGA library element (so-called "IP core"). After a thorough training a complete process landscape with all necessary documents, reviews and checks was defined. This process landscape now served as a guideline for the processing of the individual process phases, which followed a "double V-model". The double V refers to the fact that first the required function is prototypically developed and functionally tested in the laboratory. Based on this prototype, the actual product specification is then created, from which the product is developed and tested.

One of the particular challenges in development is to protect the circuit against interference from ionizing radiation. Consumer applications at sea level have hardly any problems with changes in the state of memory cells and registers as a result of bombardment by ionizing particles. The effect of a state change is called Single Event Upset (SEU). Since an SEU does not cause the same amount of damage at every point, the effect of each individual SEU in the various function blocks and the various memory cells must first be determined to calculate the final risk.