Avionics derives from "aviation" and "electronics". It comprises electronic systems for use on aircraft, artificial satellites and spacecraft, comprising communications, navigation and the display and management of multiple systems.
It also includes the hundreds of systems that are fitted to aircraft to meet individual roles, these can be as simple as a search light for a police helicopter or as complicated as the tactical system for an Airborne Early Warning platform.
The term avionics is believed to have been coined by journalist Philip J. Klass. Avionics was pioneered in the 1970s, driven by military need rather than civil airliner development. Military aircraft had become flying sensor platforms, and making large amounts of electronic equipment work together had become the new challenge.
Today, avionics as used in military aircraft almost always forms the biggest part of any development budget. Aircraft like the F-15E and the now retired F-14 have roughly 80 percent of their budget spent on avionics. Most modern helicopters now have budget splits of 60/40 in favour of avionics.
The civilian market has also seen a growth in cost of avionics. Flight control systems (fly-by-wire) and new navigation needs brought on by tighter airspaces, have pushed up development costs. The major change has been the recent boom in consumer flying. As more people begin to use planes as their primary method of transportation, more elaborate methods of controlling aircraft safely in these high restrictive airspaces have been invented.