Design Examples - North Atlantic Industries

design examples

Design Examples

North Atlantic Industries (NAI) is a leading supplier of rugged embedded solutions that can be found in many mission-critical aerospace, ground defense, naval defense, and industrial applications worldwide. 



Launch Abort System Test: Ascent Abort-2

NASA successfully launched the final test of Orion's Launch Abort System (LAS) before human missions on July 2, 2019. The LAS allows for rescue of the crew in the unlikely event of a catastrophic malfunction while the spacecraft is sitting on the launch pad or on its way into orbit. Reaching speeds up to 600 miles per hour, the LAS test demonstrated a successful abort under the highest aerodynamic loads it will experience in flight. It is necessary for the Flight Test Article to detect and communicate the abort event to the LAS and steer the LAS during the abort sequence.

The Ascent Abort-2 (AA2) test launched an Orion mockup from Space Launch Complex 46 in Cape Canaveral, Florida and tested the LAS and its three monitors.

NASA selected NAI's Rugged Sensor Interface Unit (SIU35) for the AA-2 test system's Avionics Flight Computer (FC) Chassis and I/O scheme. Two identical FCs are located within the Crew Module mockup and work with the overall Avionics system to provide the majority of I/O functionality. NAI's rugged Configurable Open Systems Architecture™ (COSA®) allowed NASA the flexibility to move forward with hardware decisions before knowing the final requirements, including I/O changes, and deliver an early functional prototype solution. North Atlantic's I/O modules provide a variety of functionality such as Serial communications, Discrete I/O, and RTD measurement. The SIU35 uses an Internal NAI COTS 150W, 28 VDC input power supply that meets MIL-STD-704A, MIL-STD-1275D and provides 50 milliseconds of holdup.

“The NASA AA2 Test Flight was a great launch and awesome to be a part of,” explains Luke Rice, Jacobs Deputy Project Manager. “As far as engineering performance is concerned, data reviews thus far indicate nominal performance before and during flight.”

For more information about the Orion Launch Abort System click here.

North Atlantic Industries is proud to be one of the New York based companies to support this project. For more information click here.

Predator Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Predator / Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Due to tight size constraints, the system designers needed an integrated Pulse Width Modulation (PWM), high-current, servo motor drive control and associated power supply for its Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS-A). NAI's Multifunction I/O Board and Power Supply Divisions worked together under a very tight design schedule to deliver a dual-channel, VME PWM motor control card and VME Power Supply. The power supply provides clean power to the PWM and handles high-peak current. In addition, the UAV platform uses an NAI power monitor to manage input power. The Engineering team at NAI was able to execute with exceptional turnaround time — from concept to production in less than six months.

NAI black hawk

NAI chinook

Improved Data Modem (IDM 401) - Airborne System

The IDM is the common solution for digitizing Army Aviation, performing as an internet controller and gateway to the Tactical Internet and Fire Support network. The IDM facilitates the sharing of situational awareness (SA), sensor, and command and control (C2) data with our digitized Army, Joint, and coalition aviation partners. The IDM serves as the crucial interface between platform mission computers and radios, supporting legacy very high frequency (VHF) radios, ultra-high frequency (UHF) radios, and Blue Force Tracker (BFT) satellite transponders. As the digitized Army Aviation’s integrated C2 and SA solution, the IDM hosts Force Battle Command Brigade and Below–Air (FBCB2-Air) and processes Air Force Applications Program Development, Variable Message Format messages, and Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) messages, further enhancing Aviation’s combat multiplicative effect.

With interfaces supporting a six-channel transmit/receive terminal, the IDM provides radio connectivity to the ARC-201D/231, ARC-186, ARC-164, and the Blue Force Tracker's MT-2011 and AVX-06/203 Transceivers. IDM provides a flexible, software-driven, digital messaging system that is interoperable with existing Army and Joint forces battlefield operating systems. The IDM is currently utilized by the Apache (AH-64D), Chinook (CH-47F), and Black Hawk (UH-60M) Army helicopter platforms. The program supports Open Systems Architecture (OSA), Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) and Common Operating Environment (COE) standards and interoperability.

Strict IDM requirements for 4-hour cold soak, turn-on operation at -54° C, and 4-hour continuous operation at 71° C at 20,000 feet were met. Moreover, strict power consumption of less than 75W input power as well as specific flight and gunfire vibration profiles had to be achieved. Stringent embedded operational/environmental specifications were met using standard NAI 3U cPCI COTS products and production methods, such as BGA component underfill to support the extreme vibration levels. NAI utilizes in-house SMT, underfill, conformal coat, 5D X-RAY, and Automated Optical Inspection (AOI) equipment for all Printed Circuit-Card Assemblies.

NAI’s complete solution for the IDM OSA is comprised of the following products:

  • COTS 3U cPCI rugged, conduction-cooled SBC

  • Multifunction I/O serial interface and Gig-E layer 2+ switch boards

  • High efficiency power supply

  • Power conditioning unit

  • Four 3U cPCI boards

The 3U cPCI boards were configured with a variety of functions. The functions included:

  • MIL-STD-1553-to-Ethernet communications

  • Four Communications and Networking Riser communications with discrete I/O ports

  • Four RS-232/422/485/423 programmable asynchronous serial communication ports

  • Eight TTL/GPIO discrete channels

Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded Systems (ARES)

Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES)

Transporting and resupplying troops in rugged, austere terrain has become a major challenge, especially as the U.S. military shifts to using smaller and more distributed combat units. The Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) was in need of an operational VTOL system with a more compact footprint than those of conventional helicopters, coupled with higher cruise speeds. NAI's Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) SIU6 rugged chassis, populated with a highly configurable PowerPC-based Single Board Computer (SBC) (64EP3) and exceptionally flexible and versatile, Multifunction I/O VME Boards (64C3) was the chosen solution. The ARES program is an example of how NAI’s modular and adaptive Configurable Open Systems Architecture™ (COSA®) delivers SWaP-C efficient, I/O-intensive boards and systems with more processing power in less time at a lower system cost—all with no NRE. The integrator partnered with NAI for the ARES program due to our incomparable COSA capabilities. Chief among them is the ability to configure boards with up to six module slots and 70+ functions without having to spend man-years developing a processing and I/O system from the ground-up.

Commercial Aircraft Landing Gear

Landing Gear & Fuel System Testing

A leading European-based commercial aircraft manufacturer needed to test and simulate signals while designing the landing gear and fuel systems for two, new wide-body commercial aircraft models. They installed a variety of NAI's 6U VME boards (including 64C2, 64C3 and 64DL1) in large chassis and test equipment racks to support this testing. The boards included 28V Discrete Inputs and Outputs, LVDT Simulation Channels, and Analog Conversions (both A/D and D/A). NAI Multifunction I/O boards were selected, based on the high channel density available and the many programmable features of these boards, as well as the available Background Built-In-Test (BIT) capability.

Rotary Wing Avionics

Rotary Wing Avionics System

An international military customer needed multiple communication interfaces for its helicopter, as well as a method to process many channels of various analog and digital signals. A rugged, conduction-cooled, self-contained system that could be networked to other systems on the helicopter was required. The SIU6 provided an excellent solution with a local PowerPC processor and over 100 channels of various intelligent, Multifunction I/O. In addition, the SIU6 met all demanding environmental and EMI requirements. This fully integrated and tested network solution enabled the customer to interface and process all I/O signals in a SWaP-efficient box using COTS components.

AC-130U Gunship

AC-130U Gunship

DoD requirements were to deliver a form, fit, and functional replacement for the LWCP (Loader Weapon Control Panel) and ECU (Electronic Control Unit) on the AC-130 Gunship.

NAI worked closely with SSAI engineers to select the exact hardware and firmware solutions to meet all their system needs. SSAI selected NAI's complete I/O and processing solution based on our field-proven, flexible COTS I/O, and Processor Technology.

“SSAI looked at numerous COTS solution sets, and NAI was the only vendor we found capable of meeting all the performance requirements with existing, proven equipment,” explains Cliff Driver, SSAI Vice President of Operations. “The final flight test results of the new ECU/LWCP system exceeded the requirements and improved the overall accuracy of the Gunship, as well as the reliability and maintainability of the gun systems — resulting in real benefits to USAF war fighters.”

Aircraft Ground Power Control

Commercial Aircraft Power Monitoring

NAI's Power Monitors are used by commercial aircraft customers such as American, Delta, Singapore, Monarch & China Airlines to monitor input power to aircraft electrical systems during switchover from aircraft to ground based power or when on a ground-based power source to protect onboard electronics & equipment. A switchover of power can cause spikes or phase reversals and missing phases, which can damage expensive onboard electronics. Ground-based power sources in different parts of the world can vary greatly in quality and damage critical components.

NAI power monitors, (Models iPM, PMA and YMA series) "watch over" the voltage and frequency of the input power to ensure that they are within prescribed high and low limits. They also look at the phase sequence in 3-phase systems. NAI power monitors use output relays, which energize and de-energize according to whether the power conditions are in or out of tolerance. These relays are typically used to trigger an alarm so that action can be taken to protect the system from damage.

Flight Control Surfaces

Testing Aircraft Control Surfaces

Commercial aircraft manufacturers need to test and verify the accuracy of the aircraft's control surfaces prior to first flight test, customer delivery and as part of ongoing maintenance. The system requirements include high-channel density LVDT measurement with high accuracy positioning.

This customer turned to NAI for a COTS solution that could be fully integrated and work with a variety of frequency ranges and voltages. NAI proposed a 75C3 Multifunction I/O circuit card with LVDT/RVDT capable function modules to provide enough channels to test all moving wing and control surfaces. The NAI COSA architecture uses NAI Standard Library function calls, which simplified integration into the main system test rack.

By testing and verifying that the control surfaces are responding in accordance with safe operating parameters and that the responses are accurate, the pilot can be assured that he or she is receiving accurate feedback and maintaining safe operation.

NAI 5330A

Precision Calibration

Commercial airlines and the calibration laboratories that support them require highly accurate, laboratory-grade instruments capable of simulating a synchro or resolver. Across the globe, NAI's 5300 Synchro Resolver Standard is the overwhelming favorite of commercial airline manufacturers and their customers for calibrating Automatic Test Equipment (ATE), or highly accurate avionics sensors and equipment aboard commercial aircraft. The NAI 5300 & 5330A are often selected due to the high, 0.0001° resolution and unmatched accuracy of up to 2 arc-seconds which is maintained through built-in automatic calibration, thereby reducing the need for costly, periodic lab calibrations.

NAI 5330A

NIU1A - Airborne System

A key military integrator needed additional discrete I/O capability quickly for an existing airborne system— with minimal space to do so. Adding capability to the existing qualified chassis was not a cost-effective solution.

The integrator connected NAI’s small compact NIU1A subsystem to the existing Ethernet network. The versatile NIU1A provides full, multichannel I/O capability and allows for different I/O function modules to be used, depending on payload requirements. The low-cost, SWaP-optimized NIU1A interfaced directly with the existing system. Using the onboard ARM for local I/O control required minimal Mission Processor bandwidth, and fit easily into a space-constrained environment with a limited power budget. Just another example of using COSA's modular design flexibility for each sensor payload.

NAI provides a no-cost Software Support Kit (SSK) which greatly reduced application software development time. Using the SSK Library calls, application software was easily created and avoided the pitfalls of software driver integration issues

Multiple NIU1A's (Nano Interface Units) were configured with a variety of I/O functions. The functions included:

  • Serial, CANBus, 1553, A/D, RTD and discrete

  • 28 VDC input

  • Dual Gig-E ports

M60A3 Main Battle Tank

M60A3 Main Battle Tank

The M60A3 Integrated Fire Control System (IFCS) provides the tank with the ability to acquire and track both stationary and mobile targets while the tank is on the move. Two of NAI's DC/DC converters (55GS1 and 55KT1) power the IFCS electronics. These rugged conduction-cooled designs meet the requirements of MIL-STD-461, 704 and 810. The customer reviewed the complete costs of assembling their own solutions using a module-based approach and decided that our one-box, mount, connect-and-go solutions provided an overall lower-cost solution. In addition, the program utilizes an NAI DC/AC Sine Inverter (44KS1-01) to power a gyro. The customer experienced power fluctuations while using another supplier's product. In less than one month, NAI submitted a design for a form, fit and function replacement solution and subsequently received the order.

Fire Control COTS Solution

Fire Control

An international military customer needed to control the motion of a gun system with synchro interfaces. The solution had to be fast with no NRE and had to work "out-of-the-box" due to limited deployment times. The customer turned to NAI for a COTS solution that would be fully integrated and tested by one supplier. The system demanded a rugged solution with remote communications near the I/O and Gun Motors. NAI proposed the SIU33 to provide the digital discretes and synchro analog outputs needed to activate, rotate, and point the gun system— all done without an SBC in the box. Utilizing our COTS boards and Gig-E communications, our integrated solution helped accelerate our customer's time-to-mission.

Naval Defense

LCAC-SSC Data Acquisition Unit


The NAI SIU35 offers modular, intelligent Data Acquisition Control solutions for the SSC Program (video 2:19)


The Navy is replacing the existing LCAC with the LCAC-SSC, a faster, more efficient vessel with the ability to carry more payload. L-3 Maritime Systems selected NAI's SIU35 for the new ship's Data Acquisition and Control System. Six "common" Data Acquisition units are located throughout the vessel and each system communicates via Ethernet to the mission processor located in the control bay, keeping unnecessary hardware out of this area and closer to the sensors being controlled. NAI's rugged, SWaP-C efficient and flexible, Configurable Open Systems Architecture™ (COSA®) enabled the customer to move forward with hardware decisions before knowing the final requirement, which helped to keep the program on schedule.

LHD 8 Amphibious Assault Ship

LHD 8 Amphibious Assault Ship

One of the design challenges on this 847-foot ship was managing the signals generated by over 12,000 sensors for the electrical generators, propulsion, engine turbine, and other critical management systems. Designers of the LHD 8 electronics chose North Atlantic's VME Intelligent Multifunction I/O card (64C1) and Serial Communications card (64D1) to integrate A/D conversion, D/A conversion, Serial and ProfiBus communications, Discrete I/O, RTD, and 4-20 mA signal data onto the VME bus. The systems' integrators reached the goal of reducing "manpower" by providing strategically distributed sensor interface systems dedicated to specific tasks and networked via Ethernet. Automated redundant and multi-point monitoring with shared sensor data was realized, easing the burden on the ships' systems management.

Through the use of NAI's products, designers reduced card count by 50%— cutting the costs, system size, weight, and power consumption of the system. In addition, the extensive test and diagnostic capabilities of the 64C1 improved system maintainability by making it possible to trace and identify signal interference faults, such as open lines and undefined range faults, to the card, module, and/or channel level for identification and action. Following successful deployment, the same VME systems were utilized in the next generation LHA-class amphibious assault ships.

Unmanned Sub (ACTUV)

Unmanned Sub (ACTUV)

NAI supplied an extremely high-density I/O and communication subsystem for the unmanned amphibious assault ship. This standalone subsystem is rugged and conduction-cooled. The ACTUV (ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) Mission Processor connects to the SIU6 via two Gig-E ports to manage, monitor, and control 20 analog input channels; 4 analog output channels; 12 RTD channels; 48 highly programmable discrete I/O channels; and, serial, CANBus, and ProfiBus sensor data. By eliminating the SBC, NAI was able to reduce SWaP, increase overall reliability, and eliminate Board Support Package and Run-Time-License costs.

Recent Satellite

Test and Measurement Devices

A leading manufacturer of precision motion control products and systems for satellites, industrial machinery, wind energy, marine applications, and medical equipment requires high accuracy measurement instruments during their manufacturing and test process. As their end products are high-precision devices themselves, it is critical that the instruments they use for quality control and testing offer extremely high accuracy and resolution. They turned to NAI's High Accuracy Angle Position Indicator (Model 8810A) to provide measurement of their devices to 0.0001° resolution and 0.004° accuracy. This instrument allows for both manual and automated readings. In this case, the manufacturer used the automated method where measurement readings are through a computer.

Bakery conveyor

Conveyor System Synchronization

As a West Coast bakery's products grew in popularity, the company found that they needed an improved level of integration in the operation of independent machines used in their assembly line. Their goal was to boost productivity from 600 to more than 1,300 packages per hour. Hoping to achieve 1:1 synchronization between their multiple axis conveyor systems at a reasonable cost, the company turned to NAI for the Astrosystems Programmable Servo Synchronizer (Astro 1000).

The Astro 1000 was deployed to produce the control signals that keeps portions of the assembly process performed by independent systems in synch. The customer reports that the Astro 1000 provides them with great flexibility by making dynamic adjustments automatically, it has eliminated the used of unreliable mechanical cams and limit switches and allowed an increase of more than 215% in productivity.

Beverage dispensing conveyor belt

Beverage Dispensing

A beverage packaging facility needed a more precise solution that could program and control independently driven sets of chains used to position beverage products into group sequence positions. The goal was to move the bottles at a rate of 60 bottles/minute and over a 9-inch distance in 3 seconds. The operation required the ability to switch to different program sequences easily and on the fly while delivering accurate, reliable pin position information in a cost-effective solution.

The customer installed NAI's Astrosystems Programmable Servo Synchronizer (Astro 1000), which allowed personnel to easily program up to 8 different group sequence positions that were required to allow for a pick and place of the product to a cartoner. The synchronizing of pins, used to position products into different groups ensured that the group sequence kept pace with the rate of production, providing the desired rate of speed and repeatability of 0.1% or better within one second precision.

Roller Coaster Motion Control

Amusement Park Ride Motion Control

A diversified entertainment conglomerate needed to monitor and control the motion and safety of a new theme park ride. The requirements included providing high channels density for I/O command, control and status with real-time operating system support. The solution required rugged system components, as the system would be deployed on the ride itself. The customer turned to NAI for a COTS solution that could be fully integrated and used with a variety of Discrete I/O sensors and response indicators.

NAI proposed a 64Dx VME rugged circuit card with high-density Discrete I/O function modules to provide over 130 Discrete multi-purpose, programmable I/O channels. The high channel density, multiple-threshold programmability and relatively high current output switching capability, allowed the customer to interface and meet every Discrete I/O requirement while reducing card count, overall system cost, and false error reporting. Using a COTS product enabled the client to meet an aggressive project timeline, deliver their ride to the public as planned and continue to delight their visitors without incurring the cost and risks associated with a custom design.