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RTCA DO-178B and EUROCAE ED-12B set rigorous safety standards on the commercial aerospace industry governing both the quality of the flight software embedded in aircraft and the processes and tools used to produce the software. The standards require engineering organizations to implement lifecycle processes that emphasize requirements-based development and independent verification for safety-critical embedded applications. Strong emphasis is also placed on change and configuration management as the basis for repeatability, traceability, and third-party reviews. Further, organizations must apply these processes uniformly across all product development lifecycle artifacts, from requirements to test plans and results, rather than simply to software configurations.

Since 1992 when DO-178B and ED-12B were adopted as certification standards by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), much has changed in the business of building and maintaining modern commercial aircraft. Not the least of the many changes since 1992 is the rapid shift toward software-driven innovation and the associated changes in the processes, methods, and tools employed in the development of embedded software.


Mounting Challenges in Software Certification and Tool Qualification

DO-178B ProcessesCertification agencies, Designated Engineering Representatives (DERs), manufacturers, and suppliers are facing numerous challenges as they attempt to adapt to the relentless pace of change in the industry. Certification and qualification processes that were sufficient just a decade ago are failing to address the industry shift to software-driven innovation. Among the many challenges the industry is struggling to solve:

  • Software changes relentlessly, in much greater volume, at a much faster rate, across the entire product lifecycle, including engineering, manufacturing, and service - This creates myriad challenges in change and configuration management processes and tools, especially when change must be tracked across such a wide range of engineering lifecycle artifacts
  • Establishing, maintaining, and tracking traceability across all artifacts and throughout the full product lifecycle becomes overwhelming
  • Modern engineering practices make certification and qualification using a standard that is nearly two decades old more challenging:
    • Model-based development places models traditionally used peripherally for design into a much more central role in the lifecycle, including simulation, verification, and validation - challenging traditional approaches to certification and tool qualification
    • Agile/lean methods are employed to increase agility and reduce lifecycle cost and schedule, but must be adapted to engineering development lifecycles designed to meet the stringent requirements of aircraft certification 

PTC Integrity Answers the Challenges of DO-178B/ED-12B

PTC Integrity enables engineering organizations to solve these challenges by providing a single, integral source of truth for the entire engineering lifecycle, including software artifacts. It is purpose-built to enable tracking of change, configuration, and traceability across all lifecycle artifacts in a single data model. Tool suites built by lashing many point tools together fail to provide the same comprehensive visibility, control, and tracking across all lifecycle artifacts, leaving the organization to collect the information needed to satisfy the standards from multiple sources which often overlap in some areas and leave gaps in others, resulting in an incomplete and inconsistent view of the lifecycle. 

DO-178C/ED-12C - Change Is Coming

A joint effort to produce major revisions to the DO-178 and ED-12 standards, begun in 2005, is nearing completion. The 'C' revisions of the two standards are now scheduled for completion in December 2011 and it is widely expected that the two aviation certification authorities will begin adopting the respective revisions soon after their release. In the meantime, engineering organizations around the world are working to anticipate the impact of these revised standards and prepare for the inevitable changes they will need to make.

There are numerous updates and enhancements included in the coming revision. Among them are modernization of the standards to address newer development methods such as model-based development, object-oriented technology, and formal methods.  The new standards also provide more comprehensive guidance on tool qualification across the lifecycle, including practitioner tools used to automate the new practices already mentioned.  

Organizations already using PTC Integrity to unify the lifecycle will be able to adapt to the additional requirements of the 'C' revisions with less disruption because they will already have an integral view of all lifecycle information. They will also find it easier to adopt newer methods, such as model-based development, adapting their lifecycle processes to meet certification requirements associated with the new methods using PTC Integrity's single, integral data model and workflow engine.

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