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The Best SBCs for Defense Applications

The Best SBCs for Defense Applications

Original Post:
Press Office, VersaLogic Corporation
May 06, 2021

Intel Atom Apollo Lake Rugged SBC. The Harrier (VL-EPU-4011) from VersaLogic is an extremely small and rugged SWaP-optimised embedded computer.
Harrier - Apollo Lake EPU

Intel Atom 'Bay Trail' EPU System with up to 4GB DDR3 -
Osprey - Atom Bay Trail EPU

High Performance Xeon-E PCIe/104 SBC - Sabertooth
Sabertooth -
High Performance Xeon-E PCIe/104 SBC

Selecting a partner for the embedded computer element can be the most critical decision involved in designing a new system. We work closely with VersaLogic, who has been designing rugged Single Board Computers (SBCs) for over 40 years. Our experienced teams are committed to providing high quality, long-life embedded computing solutions with excellent support throughout the life of your program.

This blog post looks at the most important criteria for selecting the best SBC for your defence application, from qualification to ruggedisation and long term supply.

Original Post: Press Office, VersaLogic Corporation, May 06, 2021.

The Best SBCs for Defense Applications

Defense systems have to meet high standards and pass rigorous certifications, which means that the SBC within them also needs to pass extensive shock and vibration testing, design validation testing, and meet industrial temperature standards. They must also be backed by long-term availability, considering many government programs run for upwards of 15 years.

The suppliers of rugged SBCs for defence also need to pass rigorous quality certification requirements, including ISO 9001:2015 and AS9100. In a previous blog we covered the AS9100 quality standard that satisfies the requirements of DOD, NASA and the FAA.

Rugged SBCs for Extreme Environments

Defense applications are full of examples of extreme environments, from the freezing temperatures of the Arctic to the arid heat of the desert, in combination with the shock and vibration experienced in military vehicles and aircraft. In the future, demands for mechanical ruggedness are going to become more extreme. With no physical human presence on board, unmanned fighter aircraft will be more agile and won’t have to consider the impact of G-force or vibration on a pilot.

Defense Applications

Defense applications are varied, covering everything from helmet mounted displays and biological threat detection systems through to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and radar systems.

In addition to being rugged, the SBCs used in these systems need to be extremely reliable and be supported by long-term availability to satisfy the extended defence project lifecycle.

Size, Weight and Power (SWaP)

Small tactical UAV’s require small format SBCs. They must be able to fit into space-constrained platforms, without the risk of overheating or weighing down the overall system.

The Harrier, measuring only 55 x 95 mm, was recently selected for use in an autonomous AI-equipped interceptor drone that is used to detect, pursue, and intercept dangerous/malicious drones. Harrier is a credit-card sized system with error-correcting memory (ECC), TPM security, dual- or quad-core Apollo Lake processor, and plenty of on-board I/O.

The similarly-sized Osprey embedded computer was deployed in an unmanned aerial system (UAS), tasked with a variety of missions ranging from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to counter-UAS operations (C-UAS). Alongside Harrier, Osprey is a member of the VersaLogic family of Embedded Processing Units (EPUs) - some of the smallest, lightest, ultra-rugged embedded x86 computers in the industry. Osprey is based on the Intel Atom 'Bay Trail' processor and provides fanless operation for rugged performance

Looking to the Future - More Power to the Edge

Moving more processing power to the edge instead of processing data back in a data centre is a common theme in many sectors. The driving forces behind that are three-fold:
  • Reduce latency to speed up decision making and response
  • Avoid communication bandwidth bottlenecks
  • Minimise data security risks
Defense and aerospace applications are no different. With that in mind, there is a need for increased performance in a compact and rugged format.
The new Sabertooth is one such SBC. It features a 6-core Intel® Xeon® processor and on-board fast read/write NVMe storage. Its PCIe/104 three bank expansion connector with x16 PCIe Gen 3 lanes enables connection of GPUs, 10 gigabit network ports, FPGAs and more.

The Sabertooth is a compact PC/104 format solution, measuring only 96 x 90 x 43 mm. It provides very high 6-core Xeon-E performance for space-limited applications. In addition, the Sabertooth is designed and tested for full industrial temperature (-40° to +85°C) operation and meets MIL-STD-202H specifications for shock and vibration.

The Bottom Line

There is a wide range of SBCs to choose from for defense and aerospace applications. Every project will have slightly different requirements for I/O and performance as well as varied size, weight, and power (SWaP) constraints. However, these applications do generally share needs for:
  • High quality design and manufacture, backed up by an AS9100 certified quality management system
  • SBCs that are reliable with high MTBF
  • Solutions that are rugged and can withstand extremes of operating temperatures, shock, and vibration
  • Suppliers that can continue to deliver products for years or decades

When you are making your SBC part selection it's worth noting that every VersaLogic product comes with a 5 year warranty and a 10+ year production life. Whether your application needs a standard off-the-shelf product or a full custom solution, Sarsen Technology and VersaLogic’s embedded experts are available to support your toughest requirements.

If you'd like to discuss your own application with one of our knowledgeable team please get in touch by email - or via our office - +44 1672 511166.


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