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Wireless nMAP for commercial jets

Courtesy of VT Miltope, Inc.

Hidden above the ceiling on Airbus and Boeing airframes, as well as on many business jets, is VT Miltope's 802.11n Multifunction Access Point (nMAP), critical hardware for the aircraft's LAN. The nMAP quietly supports passenger Internet access and wirelessly connects crew systems that monitor and control cabin temperature, meals data, and In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) systems. It also wirelessly bridges the aircraft to airport terminals, transferring maintenance data and crew support information.

When developing its latest nMAP hardware, Miltope relied on Coolit to predict overheating issues and prescribe design changes to keep the system cool and problem free---all before any prototypes were built.

The hardware sits in stagnant air, relying on natural convection (at up to 55C steady state; 71C for 30 minutes) and limited thermal conduction into the aircraft support structure. Zero heat flux through the mounting plate was specified for a worst case analysis. Coolit's early predictions indicated that, without design changes, the processor, radio cards, and Gigabit Ethernet chips would overheat.

Coolit's prescription was to add two custom conduction heat sinks to pull heat away from the hard-working chips and radio cards and dump this heat into the aluminum support chassis. When the conduction heat sinks were modeled, Coolit predicted that all components would remain within the manufacturer's specifications at maximum operating power-even without any thermal conduction through the mounting plate.

Subsequent benchmark testing on prototype hardware verified that the Coolit predictions were accurate, typically within a few degrees of actual for most components. Predictions usually were on the high side because worst-case steady state power dissipations were modeled versus the lower and unpredictable power draws of the tested software applications.

The nMAP teams up with other VT Miltope systems, such as Network Server Unit (NSU) and Ethernet Switch Unit (ESU) in the aircraft's equipment bay, a wireless Printer in the cockpit, Network Control Panel in the galley, and an Airborne Telephony Server (ATS) that enables passengers to use cell phones while aloft. Coolit also was used in the design of these systems.

Miltope's nMAP wirelessly links airline cabin with crew, terminal and maintenance personnel and provides Internet capability for passengers.
Coolit prescribed design changes protect nMAP from overheating.

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