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Linux-based flight recorder optimized for drones

Jan 23, 2012 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Ampex Data Systems announced a compact, ruggedized airborne recorder that runs SUSE Linux on a 1.3GHz Intel Atom E660T CPU. The ruggedized TuffServ 40 (TS 40) offers 1GB of DDR2 RAM, a 2GB boot disk, an 80GB or 160GB solid state drive, a gigabit Ethernet port, and a -40 to 159.8 deg. F operating range.

Measuring 6.25 x 3.5 x 1.8 inches and weighing 1.4 pounds, the TuffServ 40 (also called the TS 40) is the smallest, lightest, and most energy-efficient member of Ampex's TuffServ family, says the Redwood City, Calif.-based company.

Whereas larger systems such as the TuffServ 100v Video Server offer more functions, including video decoding, the TuffServ 40 is intended as a general purpose computing platform for airborne and mobile applications, especially as a file server and/or flight recorder. It's particularly well suited for tactical unmanned aerial vehicles where size and payload weight are at a premium, says Ampex.

TuffServ 40

(Click to enlarge)

The TuffServ 40 is built on the 1.3GHz Intel Atom E660T ("Tunnel Creek"), which is a full-fledged system on chip (SoC). This low-power heir to the original Z5xx Atom line incorporates a GMA600 graphics controller, a memory controller, and an audio chip. With the help of the E660T and a compact, simple design, the TuffServ 40 is said to run on 10 Watts.

TuffServ 40 block diagram

(Click to enlarge)

The Atom E660T is joined here with 1GB of DDR2 800MHz RAM and a 2GB dedicated flash boot device. The TuffServ 40 also provides a non-removable solid-state drive (SSD) in 80GB and 160GB versions, with larger capacities planned for a future release, according to Ampex.

The sole I/O connection here is a gigabit Ethernet port, which, like the power input, uses a ruggedized, avionics-style Glenair Series 805 10-pin connector. (The product page lists dual gigabit Ethernet ports, but the data sheet lists one, which appears to be supported by the photo and block diagram.)

The 28VDC power input is said to be compliant with the MIL-STD-704F standard. The TuffServ 40 supports a wide operating temperature range of -40 to 159.8 deg. F (-40 to 71 deg. C), and offers shock, vibration, and EMS resistance, says the company.

The SUSE Linux-based computer offers built-in network services, including NFS, FTP, and Samba for Windows SMB/CIFS networks, says Ampex. The device can also be configured as a network-attached block-storage device using the iSCSI protocol.

Customers can download open source or commercial software including databases, multimedia packages, and management tools, says the company. The system can be controlled and administered with a web browser, or with a terminal emulator combined with a traditional command line interface.

Side view of the TuffServ 40

The TuffServ recorder application offers two operating modes: one for recording generic TCP or UDP streams over Ethernet, and the other optimized for recording and replaying video data encapsulated in MPEG-2 transport stream packets. In addition, the unit's onboard clock can be synchronized to external time sources via the IEEE 1588/PTP standard, says Ampex. 

Specifications listed for the TuffServ 40 include:

  • Processor — Intel Atom E660T @ 1.3GHz
  • Chipset — PCH EG20T
  • Memory — 1GB PC2-6400 DDR2 800MHz RAM; 2GB dedicated flash boot device
  • Storage — 80GB or 160GB fixed SSD
  • Networking — gigabit Ethernet via Glenair Series 805, 10-pin connector, key position "B"
  • Other features — base screw mounted (6x)
  • Power — 28VDC per MIL-STD-704F input via Glenair Series 805, 10-pin with discrete inputs; 10 W dissipation
  • Operating temperature — -40 to 159.8 deg. F (-40 to 71 deg. C)
  • Shock resistance — 20 g, half sine, 11ms shock
  • Other ruggedization — vibration TBD; MIL-STD-461E-compliant EMS protection
  • Weight — 1.4 lbs (640 g) with 160GB SSD
  • Dimensions - 6.25 x 3.5 x 1.8 inches (159 x 89 x 46mm)


The TuffServ 40 appears to be available now at an undisclosed price. More information may be found at the Ampex TuffServ 40 product page.

Eric Brown can be reached at [email protected].

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