If you have had the opportunity to see a plane's cockpit while in flight or have see a missile launched from a fighter jet, you have seen avionics in action. Avionics consist of the electronic systems that are used on aircraft and spacecraft as well as artificial satellites. This includes systems for communications, navigation, monitoring, and weather. The word "avionics" also refers to the science and the development of technology as it applies to aeronautics and astronautics. Avionics fall into two main categories: aircraft avionics and mission/tactical avionics.
Many of the avionics systems on an aircraft can be found and controlled in the cockpit. You'll find systems for controlling the aircraft, monitoring, communication, navigation, anti-collision and weather sensing. The capacity of the aircraft's electrical system depends on its size - airliners, military combat aircraft and spacecraft will usually run larger systems to drive their avionics. Several major vendors manufacture flight avionics systems, one of the largest being Honeywell.
Military aircraft are fit with systems that are either designed to sense and respond to a threat or to deliver an offensive attack. Communication systems are able to withstand combat conditions while sophisticated radar systems are made to help pilots fly jets safely at low altitudes. Sonar is used to aid military aircraft in marine environments by tracking submarines and surface threats. Electronic support measures and defensive aids (ESM/DAS) are used to obtain information about possible threats. These systems can also be used to launch devices to counter attacks against the aircraft.
Avionics systems can also be found on police and EMS aircraft. Police helicopters track suspects and EMS aircraft locate rescue victims from the air using video or Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR).
Avionics vs. Avation
What is the difference? Avionics refers to the electronic systems that are used by different types of aircraft, while aviation describes the different uses for flying devices. Civil aviation includes commercial flights and private transport while military aviation may include surveillance flights, delivery of supplies or tactical attacks.