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The University of Southampton

SESA6069 Avionics

Module Overview

This module is intended to develop a deeper understanding of operational principles and techniques of a variety of avionics systems including flight control, onboard communication, sensor, GPS, and radar. The module consists of two parts. In Part 1, structure and operational principles of flight control systems, flight computer, and onboard communication are introduced. In Part, basic knowledge on radio wave and its application to radar and related avionics systems are presented.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Radar and communication systems and techniques in use at present so that students can gain a clear understanding of the principles involved, the methods of implementation and how the systems relate to the operation of military and civilian aircraft radar. The use of countermeasures and stealth will also be covered. Future requirements will be discussed to indicate the development required of current and future radar systems. Advanced radars used for imaging will also be included.
  • How component parts, subsystems and systems are integrated into onboard aircraft systems and the communications and interrelationships between the various system elements. Additionally, critical constraints on these system, how the aircraft operates in relation them and the requirement of future generation aircraft will also be appreciated.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the key factors determining the design of communications and radar systems used in aircraft
  • Apply the radar equation and set up and solve problems involving radar range, noise, and radar cross-section
  • Have an appreciation of the issues concerned with stealth, protection and countermeasures
  • Understand and identify the key components and signals of onboard aircraft systems and how they interact with one another
  • Describe different methods of detecting and dealing with the failure of components and (sub) systems
  • Have an appreciation of the properties of a range of different feasible architectures
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Study and learn independently
  • Solve problems


Antennas and Communication - Basic e.m. waves. - Propagation equation. Radio wave propagation. Ground wave, sky wave and space wave propagation. - Types of Communication, modulation systems, Basic antennas and arrays. Wave-guides. Radar - Ground and airborne radar techniques. - Radar range equation. Radar cross-section, stealth, noise, Pulse, c.w. Counter measures - Chaff, jamming, masking, decoys. Imaging Radar - Side looking radar, synthetic aperture radar. Flight Control Systems - Fly-by-wire control. - Features and advantages of fly-by-wire control. - Redundancy configuration and failure survival. - Digital implementation. - Human Factors in Aviation and Design considerations of flight control systems - Input devices -Automation Sensors - General sensor properties (static and dynamics - Sensors for air applications (displacement, velocity, pressure, temperature) Air Data Systems and Computing - Architecture of typical flight computers (CPU, memory, Input/Ouput). - Air data Laws and relationship. - Air data computation. Data Bus (ARINC 429) - ARINC 429 Electrical Characteristics. - ARINC 429 Word Format. - ARINC 429 Data Types. Navigation - Fundamental methods of navigation and typical navigation systems. - Principle of inertial navigation systems. - Principle of global positioning systems. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - Uses and advantages of unmanned aerial vehicles. - Challenges and issues in design of unmanned aerial vehicles. Revision Classes

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures, including slide and video presentations, and example classes. • Industry speakers. Learning activities include • Directed reading. • Individual work to understand and master the course content, with the objective of successfully solving problems. • Application of course content to astronautics-based Group Design projects.

Wider reading or practice80
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

R. P. G. Collinson (2011). Introduction to Avionics Systems. 

Roger W. Pratt (2000). Flight Control Systems – Practical Issues in Design and Implementation. 

M I Skolnik. Introduction to Radar Systems. 

Simon Kingsley and Shaun Quegan. Understanding Radar Systems. 

I. Moir, Sirona G. Knight, and Malcolm Jukes (2013). Civil Avionics Systems. 

G.W.Stimson. Introduction to airborne radar. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: FEEG1004 AND SESA3030

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