What is safety-certifiable avionics hardware that meets Design Assurance Levels (DAL)?
WASHINGTON -- What does it mean to offer safety-certifiable avionics hardware that meets RTCA DO-254 and EUROCAE Document ED-80 Design Assurance Levels (DAL) A, B, C, D, and E?
Safety-certifiable electronics are commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components or subsystems that include data artifact packages that are necessary for eventual certification to DO-254 and EUROCAE ED-80. These artifact packages can ease and speed the use of COTS components for aircraft that will operate in commercial airspace.
DO-254 and EUROCAE ED-80 are electronics guidelines that define electronics components and test methods to ensure safety in commercial, military, and general aviation aircraft that operate in commercial airspace throughout the world.
These guidelines and test methodologies are administered by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) Inc. in Washington, and the European Organization for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington and other civil aeronautics authorities throughout the world subscribe to and enforce these guidelines in an effort to make flight in commercial airspace as safe as possible.
Although the U.S. military leaders today do not enforce these specific safety-certifiable electronics standards for their own systems, trends indicate that Electronics subsystem manufacturers eventually will be asked to meet these guidelines -- especially for future unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that will operate in commercial airspace.
The RTCA DO-154 and EUROCAE ED-80 Design Assurance Guidance for Airborne Electronic Hardware divide flight electronics hardware and components into two camps: simple and complex. Simple electronic hardware be tested to ensure that it works correctly under all operating conditions with no anomalies.
Complex hardware pertains to items considered to be so complex that it is impractical to ensure its correct functioning through standard tests and design processes.
DO-254 and EUROCAE ED-80 define five design assurance levels, commonly referred to as DAL, that describe how critical these components are for safe flight. The different DAL levels progressively describe components whose importance ranges from extremely important to trivial for safe flight.
DAL A describes flight electronics hardware whose failure or malfunction could cause a catastrophic, hazardous, or severe condition that would result in the deaths of everyone aboard the aircraft.
DAL B describes flight electronics hardware whose failure or malfunction could cause a severe or hazardous condition that could involve some loss of life. DAL C, meanwhile, describes hardware whose failure or malfunction would result in a major flight condition that likely will involve serious injuries.
DAL D describes hardware whose failure or malfunction would result in a condition that causes only a minor non-life-threatening flight condition. DAL E, finally, describes hardware whose failure or malfunction would have no effect on the aircraft's operational capability or pilot workload.
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