SWaP-C2 Applications: The Battlefield & Beyond

February 10, 2023

The term ‘SWaP-C2’usually brings aerospace and defense applications to mind. SWaP-C2 is an acronym for Size, Weight, Power, Cost, and Cooling, most often referring to embedded computing and/or electronic components. While SWaP-C2 is a major factor in aerospace and defense product design many other applications have similar constraints. 

SWaP-C2 Applications

Defense and Aerospace

Defense and Aerospace applications are far and away the most prevalent industry sectors that rely on SWaP-C2 optimization. As we noted in an earlier SWaP-C2 article, unmanned ariel vehicles (UAVs) are a good illustration of these constraints. To summarize:

As the information-gathering components of UAVs become more complex, they require more processing power. If the UAV is remotely operated, it must include data communications networking hardware. the entire platform must be designed to meet the environmental conditions of the area of operation – high altitude, extreme hot or cold temperatures, precipitation, etc. The range and capability of these platforms are, ultimately, limited by size and weight; fuel costs increase as the size and weight of the UAV increase. Therefore, by optimizing the SWaP-C2 of the individual components, the functionality of the entire system is increased.

Internet of Things (IoT) Applications

As IoT applications become more widespread, and continue to fill new and different roles, there is a growing need for SWaP-C2 optimization for sensors and other components. As sensors are being deployed in more compact or mobile devices, SWaP-C2 optimization becomes more and more important. 

Many end devices in IoT applications are required to operate for many years with little or no maintenance or changing batteries. Whatever the specifications of the IoT product, strategic trade-offs are required to ensure SWaP-C2 optimization.


Things like smartwatches or fitness/health trackers must fit into a form factor that can reasonably fit on someone’s wrist or clip onto a shirt. Further, consumers have developed expectations, in terms of battery life of these devices. As sensors continue to advance and become more complex, SWAP-C2 will become more and more crucial to keep these devices in the small form factor that consumers have come to expect.

Batteries and Power Consumption 

In applications that require a significant power source, the battery is often the heaviest component. There are several approaches to reduce the size and/or weight of a device’s power supply. First and foremost, it is important to determine the exact power requirements of the device and optimize based on that; you do not want to include a battery or power supply that is any larger than what is necessary.

Although it is not a mature technology by any means, there have been significant breakthroughs in the design and use of structural batteries. This refers to the practice of converting structural elements of an application into energy storage. Currently, this includes things like converting things like automobile doors or airplane/drone wings into energy storage. 

Video Platforms

Video recording and processing platforms are generally among the least SWaP-C2 optimized devices. There are several different reasons for this, but the main one is the ubiquity of video platforms; there are cameras everywhere, used for hundreds if not thousands of different applications. As such, developers and manufacturers gravitate towards the use of off-the-shelf devices. This generally results in excessive overprovisioning – the use of hardware that is much more powerful than what is needed. Overprovisioning leads to higher power consumption, which leads to the need for larger batteries, which leads to a larger overall footprint, which causes more heat, which requires the use of larger heatsinks and/or fans. Ultimately, overprovision leads to the worst SWaP-C2 optimized products available. 

Achieving SWaP-C2 with Sealevel

Optimizing SWaP-C2 is a delicate balancing act, that requires careful consideration. Often, seemingly minor design changes can affect a device or system’s performance. Now more than ever, SWaP-C2 must be managed and optimized in applications to improve operational efficiency and logistics, increase product life, and reduce the total cost of ownership.

By leveraging PCIe/104 and COM Express technology, Sealevel’s team can engineer application-specific functionality. PCIe/104 stacks vertically while COM Express allows for the carrier board size to adapt horizontally to conform to footprint restrictions.

To meet cooling specifications, Sealevel utilizes an extensive library of thermal management techniques, beginning with component selection and placement through thermal simulation and testing.