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AgustaWestland Uses Bustec VXI Platform to Test Helicopters in a Wind Tunnel Simulation

Company: AgustaWestland

Industry: Transportation/Aviation

Challenge: Acquiring data from 128 channels simultaneously at a rate of up to 100 kS/s while maintaining the ability to monitor time domain data online in real-time and store all data continuously onto a RAID system.

Solution: Using the Bustec VXI platform to quickly collect data with superior analog performance, versatile signal conditioning, and the capability for on-the-fly system calibration.


AgustaWestland creates integrated helicopter systems that encompass all principal weight categories for commercial and military use. These helicopters must be tested extensively to ensure complete customer satisfaction upon delivery and use in a wide range of commercial and military missions. Because helicopter rotors are smaller than airplane wings, their vibrations contain higher frequency components, requiring sampling rates for helicopter rotors to be significantly higher than those required for airplane testing.

In the process of creating the Milano Wind-Tunnel facility to test new rotor configurations, AgustaWestland encountered a need for a top-of-the-line data acquisition system. Ultimately, AgustaWestland chose to use the ProDAQ 3180 ultra-performance motherboard together with the ProDAQ 3424 8-channel, 24-bit, sigma-delta analog-to-digital (ADC) function cards over a VXIbus backplane. Like many customers, AgustaWestland has an increasing need to capture the time domain data, along with frequency on vibration measurements.

Bustec products offered the most accurate solution, accommodating the high data-sampling rate and need for capturing time domain data required by the wind-tunnel testing facility. With the Bustec system, engineers can acquire data from 128 channels simultaneously at the required sampling rate of 100 kS/s, and achieve sustained data rates in excess of 80 MB/sec per mainframe. In addition, with the Bustec solution, AgustaWestland can store acquired data on a RAID system and synchronously monitor all data in real-time. Engineers also can make on-the-fly changes using Bustec hardware, allowing their systems to be easily customizable for acute specifications.

The AgustaWestland system consists of 128 sigma-delta analog-to-digital converter (ADC) channels* sampling at up to 108 kS/s per channel, with 72 channels of high-precision ADC channels and 8 counter channels. The ProDAQ 3424 sigma-delta ADC function cards can sample at up to 216 kS/s per channel with 24-bit resolution. The inputs can be directly connected to voltage signals as well as to ICP sensors. The bridge conditioning card used in the AgustaWestland system is similar to the newer ProDAQ 5716, used to provide excitation to bridge-type sensors. The high-precision ADC channels are used for slower measurements, including temperature or pressure sensors.

 *Users with an LXI form factor can take advantage of the same number of channels in 1U of rack space as in 1 VXI slot by mounting two ProDAQ 6100 function card carriers side-by-side. 

Application Update

Bustec products are the industry's first VXI products to allow the user to take full advantage of the new features incorporated in VXI standards. When the AgustaWestland application was implemented, their solution incorporated the VXI-1 Rev. 3.0 standards, the most up-to-date at the time, and with that advanced technology, AgustaWestland experienced analog performance superior, up to 80 MB/s throughput, to that available using other products. Bustec has continued to invest R&D resources in supporting the VXI standards, and in turn, has remained on the leading edge of VXI. With the most current VXI-1 Rev. 4.0, users can take advantage of the ProDAQ 3030 slot-0 interface to achieve up to 320 MB/s throughput.

With the ProDAQ 3424 function cards, AgustaWestland took advantage 32 channels in each VXI slot. With other Bustec ProDAQ digital input/output (DIO) function cards, engineers can maximize channel density and take advantage of up to 384 channels in one VXI slot.

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"With Bustec, from the delivery of the products to the quality of the hardware, software, and support, we are actually getting more functionality for a decreased price."
Lockheed Martin