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Embedded software at the heart of autonomous mobility


Software is part of our daily lives: washing machines, cameras, alarm systems, televisions, internet boxes...These objects integrate so-called "embedded" software to function. Today, they are used in various fields, including automotive, aerospace, electronics, medical devices, and robotics.

Picture of an Embbed Software

For over 30 years, Safran Electronics & Defense has been designing and developing embedded software for the aeronautics, defense, naval and space sectors, both military and civil. We aim to make aircraft, drones, and land vehicles more autonomous.

Here's how.

What is embedded software?

Embedded software is a computer program that enables an object or device to perform specific tasks. For example, smartphones' GPS (Global Positioning System) geolocation system includes embedded software. 

In concrete terms, a processor executes this software within a device. The processor is responsible for managing and executing the software's instructions. The software also interacts with sensors, human-machine communication interfaces, and other devices to collect data. 

What are the differences between software embedded in a smartphone vs. an aircraft, land vehicle, or submarine?

Software embedded in a smartphone is not quite the same as that developed by Safran Electronics & Defense for civil aircraft, observation drones, or military land vehicles. The difference lies in the specific constraints of each device, the environment in which it is used, and the criticality of the conditions of use (circulating in airspace, for example).

For example, software used in aircraft or submarines is subject to more stringent safety requirements, including continuous operation and official certification. The designer must then guarantee that his software complies with all applicable safety and security standards.

What role does embedded software play in aircraft and land vehicles?

Embedded software aims to provide inert devices and objects with functionalities that make them more intelligent. These include :

Controlling flight safety: embedded software can manage and control flight and maintenance functions on military or civilian aircraft (planes, drones, land vehicles, submarines, satellites, etc.). They correct anomalies, propose several operating "paths" to avoid breakdowns, or predict maintenance requirements.

Navigate with precision and in good time: navigation systems, especially inertial navigation systems, need onboard software to provide precise information on the position, speed, and altitude of the aircraft in which they are installed. Ultimately, this enables the aircraft to define its role. Combined with infallible time data, the trajectory is calculated precisely.

Reliable communications in all environments: onboard software is used to secure communications between aircraft, operators, and equipment. They ensure the transmission and reception of data, as well as the encryption and protection of information.

Detect and monitor to determine and qualify threats: software can also be directly embedded in sensors designed to monitor the environment and detect potential threats. They can analyze images from cameras, radar, or infrared sensors.

Guaranteeing and reinforcing cybersecurity: embedded software plays a significant, cross-functional role in IT security. The aim is to ensure that the equipment and devices in which they are integrated cannot be jammed or misled.


For example, the Patroller™ tactical drone system (SDT) produced by Safran Electronics & Defense embeds software fulfills all these roles, whether in the ground station used to pilot the drone system or in the drone itself. They guarantee the precision of the drone's navigation and its security (cyber or otherwise). To find out more, go to the page dedicated to the Patroller™ SDT: Patroller™ - Long-endurance, multi-mission and multi-sensor tactical UAV system | Safran (safran-group.com)

Drone Patroller

With embedded software, devices become intelligent.

Give them eyes and an inner ear: to enable an aircraft, submarine, or even a land robot to find its way in space and navigate, engineers at Safran Electronics & Defense start by integrating sensors and sensors. Onboard software ensures the operation of this equipment, collecting and processing the data required for navigation in real-time and with the utmost precision, as if they had eyesight and a sense of balance.

Eyes and inner ear connected to a brain: the device incorporates a brain-like computer to interpret this data. This computer embeds software, enabling it to analyze and represent its environment, in real-time, with the help of data sent back by sensors. All this forms a system capable of translating what it sees into digital language, enabling the device to understand its surroundings. 

So that devices have an unerring sense of direction: thanks to its onboard software and calculator, the device can plan a feasible and robust route and a predictable trajectory. All while respecting the various constraints of its mobility: does it move by flying, rolling with wheels or tracks, etc.? 

Made more intelligent, a device can lighten the mental load of the operational staff who use it. 

Embedded software at the heart of today's social challenges.

Today, embedded software plays a crucial role in the defense sector. Aircraft, land vehicles, and military equipment are mainly dependent on it to ensure optimal operation of the electronic hardware needed to control, monitor, communicate, navigate, and secure their complex systems. They are an indispensable element in the service of sovereignty.

Embedded software also plays a role in a more carbon-neutral world by helping decarbonize aviation. Commercial aircraft can now benefit from cutting-edge flight control and navigation systems that optimize fuel consumption, improve predictive maintenance, and enhance communications security between pilots, air traffic controllers, and airlines.