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What is RTCA DO-160?

What is DO-160 by RTCA?

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Editorial Team - EMC Directory

Oct 16, 2023

The RTCA/DO-160 has served as a benchmark for environmental testing standards since 1958.

It describes certain environmental qualification tests for aerospace equipment. The RTCA DO-160G standard defines a set of environmental tests that are used to qualify airborne equipment for installation in aircraft. It also includes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)/other international regulations for avionics equipment. It was released in December 2010. 

Some of the test categories included in RTCA DO-160G are described as follows:

1. Temperature & Altitude Tests: 

Temperature testing evaluates how well the equipment can perform across a spectrum of temperatures. This includes extreme cold and hot conditions that the equipment may encounter during its operation. The specific aspects covered in temperature testing may include:

  • Operating Temperature: Determining the range of temperatures within which the equipment must function without failure.
  • Storage Temperature: Identifying the range of temperatures at which the equipment can be safely stored without damage.
  • Temperature Variations: Assessing how the equipment responds to rapid temperature changes or fluctuations.
  • Shock Tests: Evaluating the equipment's ability to withstand sudden temperature shocks or transitions.

Altitude testing focuses on the equipment's performance at different altitudes above sea level. It ensures that the equipment can function correctly even in environments with varying air pressures. The key elements of altitude testing may include:

  • Operating Altitude: Determining the maximum altitude at which the equipment should operate without performance issues.
  • Storage Altitude: Identifying the highest altitude at which the equipment can be stored without damage.
  • Altitude Variation: Assessing how the equipment behaves when exposed to rapid changes in altitude.

2. Humidity Tests: 

These tests include humidity tests like operational and storage humidity.

3. Vibration Tests:

  • Random Vibration: Random vibration testing evaluates the equipment's ability to withstand unpredictable vibration patterns, simulating real-world conditions such as turbulent flights or rough road transportation.
  • Swept Sine Vibration: Swept sine vibration tests involve applying a sinusoidal vibration with varying frequency  to assess the equipment's response across different frequencies.
  • Shock and Bump: Shock and bump tests check the equipment's resilience against sudden shocks and bumps, which can occur during transportation or handling.

4. Waterproofness Tests: These tests ensure that the equipment is protected from water ingress.

5. Acceleration/Deceleration Tests: These tests assess how the equipment responds to rapid changes in speed, such as during takeoff and landing.

6. Crash Safety Shock: Crash safety shock tests simulate the impact forces experienced during a crash or emergency landing to ensure the equipment's structural integrity

7. Explosive Atmosphere Tests:

  • Flammability: These tests determine the equipment's susceptibility to ignition in the presence of flammable gases or vapors.
  • Fluid Susceptibility: These tests evaluate how the equipment interacts with various fluids and their potential effects on its performance.

8. Sand and Dust Tests:

  • Dust: Dust tests assess the equipment's resistance to dust particles, which can infiltrate and affect its functionality
  • Blowing Sand: Blowing sand tests simulate exposure to high-velocity sand particles, such as those encountered in desert environments.

9. Fungus Resistance Tests: These tests determine how well the equipment resists fungal growth, which can be a concern in humid or damp conditions.

10. Salt Spray Tests: These tests are designed to ensure that the equipment can withstand exposure to saltwater mist, which causes corrosion.

11. EMI Tests:

  • Radiated Emission: Radiated emission tests examine the equipment's electromagnetic emissions and ensure they comply with regulatory limits. 
  • Conducted Emission: These tests ensure that the EUT is not causing any interference/disturbance to the sensors. CE(Conducted Emissions) tests assess electromagnetic emissions through the equipment's conductive interfaces.

12. Induced Signal Susceptibility: Induced signal susceptibility tests evaluate how well the equipment resists interference from external electromagnetic sources

13. Power Input Tests: Power input tests verify the equipment's performance under varying power input conditions, such as voltage fluctuations

14. Voltage Spike and Surge Tests:

  • Voltage Spike: Voltage spike tests assess the equipment's resilience to sudden, brief increases in voltage.
  • Voltage Surge: Voltage surge tests evaluate how well the equipment handles temporary increases in voltage levels

15. Audio Frequency Tests:

  • Audio Frequency Conducted Susceptibility: Audio frequency conducted susceptibility tests examine the equipment's vulnerability to interference from audio frequency signals.    
  • Audio Frequency Inductive Coupling: These tests investigate the equipment's susceptibility to electromagnetic interference through inductive coupling with audio frequency signals.

16. Radio Frequency (RF) Susceptibility Tests: RF susceptibility tests assess how the equipment responds to radio frequency interference and ensure its proper functioning in the presence of RF signals which are mainly Continuous Wave(CW), Square Wave AM (SW) and Pulse Modulated     (PM) in their characteristic nature.

  • Conducted Susceptibility: This is mainly injecting signals(BCI) into the EUT’s interconnection cable.
  • Radiated Susceptibility: In these tests, the RF signals are broadcast onto the EUT and cable, and monitoring is performed thereafter. These tests may be performed in reverberation chambers or anechoic chambers. 

17. Lightning-Induced Transient Susceptibility Tests: These tests confirm if the equipment withstands lightning strikes. The tests can be split into categories:

  • Damage tolerance tests: These tests are designed to determine whether the equipment can withstand the direct effects of a lightning strike without being damaged. The tests are performed by injecting a simulated lightning strike into the equipment through the connector pins.
  • Functional upset tolerance tests: These tests are designed to determine whether the equipment can continue to operate properly after being exposed to a lightning strike. The tests are performed by injecting a simulated lightning strike into the equipment through the interconnecting cable bundles.

The lightning strikes are generated using high-voltage pulse generators. Testing is done in shielded chambers.

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