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Jim McElroy

Members of the aerospace and defense community increasingly are concerned about remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) entering the public airspace.

Do you have advice for UAV integrators and system designers?

It boils down to software quality. The software applications that control and monitor UAVs, both on the ground and in the air, should be developed to the same rigorous standards as those that are flown by and carrying people. Failure of UAVs is not an option and, therefore, both the software and hardware should be verified to ensure device safety and reliability.

In addition to the safety and interoperability requirements is the increasing requirement for security, which is something that must be built into the code from the ground up. There is a clear need for static and dynamic software analysis tools that check for and eliminate security vulnerabilities in the code. That, combined with the use of operating systems that are capable of encapsulating and partitioning run-time capabilities, will help ensure device and system security.

Which certifications should be top of mind for avionics designers?

The international standards for avionics software and complex (programmable) hardware certifications, DO-178C/ED-12C and DO-254/ED-80, are foremost. These are the standards harmonized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Both are globally recognized. Even the primary airworthiness standard for the U.S. Air Force, MIL-HDBK-516B, invokes DO-178B for software certification considerations.

What are potential consequences of an inefficient certifications infrastructure or process?

When the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) does its crash investigations, it will always go back to the compliance data of any suspected system, even though it was previously certified. A compliant, repeatable process infrastructure must be put in place. Without this compliant infrastructure, the NTSB may not be able to "find compliance" with a previously certified system.

Safety, technical, and business ramifications can occur should an avionics firm not have a good grasp on the overall process of development and certification for its systems. At the business level, in today’s global marketplace, efficiency of processes and tools can determine the life of the company. The avionics market is now a highly competitive global market and only those companies with a solid foundation for developing high-quality systems in the most cost-effective manner will survive.

Who needs to be concerned with certifications?

The people that really need to be concerned are those responsible for constructing the systems, as they are responsible and liable for the quality of the systems they deliver. That would be the developers, systems designers, systems integrators, managers, and high-level executives.


NAME: Jim McElroy
TITLE: Vice president of marketing
ROLE: LDRA delivers software that automates code analysis and software testing for safety-, mission-, security-, and business-critical markets.

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