Short for aviation electronics, avionics is the field that involves the assembly and installation of electronic systems on all types of airborne and space related devices. Avionics play a role in the construction of airplanes ranging from small planes to large commercial aircraft. At the same time, avionics is essential to the creation and ongoing function of satellites and all types of spacecraft.
The motivation behind the establishment of avionics as a specific field is usually considered to be related to military needs. Prior to the 1970’s, various electronic components and systems were developed under various types of disciplines, but not really considered in relation to functionality as a working unit. As the need for faster and more centrally controlled functionality became apparent, aviation electronics became the process of integrating all these various individual electronics into a cohesive working master system that would increase the overall efficiency of the aircraft.
This is not to say that the commercial sector has not also benefited from the military efforts to employ avionics in aircraft design. In fact, commercial airlines have employed many of the same approaches to great effect. As computer technology continued to evolve in the latter part of the 20th century, avionics relied heavily on this technology to help create integrated platforms to drive such essential functions as communications, systems displays, and automatic navigation systems.
As the use of commercial airlines has continued to increase worldwide, avionics has, out of necessity, continued to refine systems integration protocols and structures, allowing aircraft to move faster while operating at higher levels of efficiency. At the same time, avionics has also helped to enhance the safety of persons traveling by air, as the devices often make it possible to monitor weather conditions, the location of other aircraft in the immediate vicinity, and other obstacles that could pose a threat to the airliner.
Developments in avionics have also helped space programs to move beyond the limits that seemed to be constant in earlier decades. Advances in communication systems, remote navigation, and directional guidance have helped to make it possible to gather data using probes and satellites in a way that was only dreamed of a few years ago. As humankind continues to look for more ways to utilize air travel and to reach into the cosmos, avionics will no doubt continue to evolve.