Serious Signal Processing in a Small Package


Many defense electronics contractors have a need for advanced signal processing solutions that can fit into space constrained platforms, such as the new, smaller Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), as well as in pods under manned aircraft and smaller ground vehicles.

Mercury Computer System’s 3U CompactPCI rugged MCP3 FCN signal processing module employs an SOI-based PowerPC. The system is designed for deployment in harsh environments, such as in the high heat, humidity, shock, and vibration faced by this Predator UAV. Photos courtesy of Mercury Computer Systems.

The signal processing systems on all these platforms must be able to function under difficult environmental conditions, including excessive heat, humidity, poor air quality, high altitude, shock and vibration.

The MCP3 FCN multicomputer system module from Mercury Computer Systems meets these requirements, delivering highly flexible signal processing capability in a space-efficient, rugged 3U CompactPCI (cPCI) format. The MCP3 FCN employs both a 1 GHz SOI-based PowerPC 7447 and a Virtex II Pro P40 field-programmable gate array (FPGA). These two processing units are connected by means of a Discovery II bridge chip.

The SOI-based solutions, which Mercury first deployed in 2003, offer excellent low-power capability, making the devices ideal for embedded applications. The PowerPC 7447 delivers outstanding compute performance combined with low power consumption/heat generation, which is critically important to embedded defense electronics. The vector processing capability makes it especially well suited to signal processing applications. Application software can be partitioned so that certain algorithms like non-data-dependent operations go onto the FPGA, while data-dependent operations are sent to the PowerPC. Overall, the SOI-based solution offers a marked power/thermal improvement, and enables us to offer our customers higher performance per watt per cubic inch.

Fully capable of deployment in harsh environments, the MCP3 FCN module is available in both air-cooled and conduction-cooled versions. The conduction-cooled version is constructed with ruggedized mechanical casework that conducts heat to the edge of the board and also stiffens the board to withstand shock and vibration •

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