By Chip Downing
I am really excited about Real-Time Innovations (RTI) releasing its RTCA DO-178C Certification Data Package for its Connext® DDS Cert product. This is the “missing link” to providing a complete Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE™) software solutions stack where all of the components have readily available commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) safety certification evidence. Two years ago our partners and Wind River rapidly assembled a FACE solution stack composed of VxWorks 653, CoreAVI’s certified graphics drivers, RTI’s DDS, and Esterel’s SCADE Display product to demonstrate a manned aircraft cockpit display environment. At that time many partners offered DO-178C DAL A solutions, but the RTI DDS transport services segment (TSS) did not.
That changed a couple of weeks ago. RTI releasing a COTS DO-178C Level A Certification Package for Connext DDS Cert is a risk-reducing solution for using the Data Distribution Service (DDS) standard products into critical systems. Verocel assisted RTI in the creation of this product, so it has a similar format as our DO-178C DAL A certification evidence DVD containing over 70,000 hyperlinked files to prove the safety qualities of our VxWorks 653 platform that is now used by over 180 customers in over 300 programs deployed in over 70 aircraft. If these existing VxWorks 653 customers want to include a DDS stack in their next certified platform, it is now a low-risk activity to do so – RTI’s DDS products have already been integrated into every Wind River VxWorks and Wind River Linux platform, so the integration risk is very low, and now the certification risk has also been minimized.
Wind River has a wide ecosystem of pre-integrated FACE COTS solution stacks that include a wide mix of partners including RTI, AdaCore, Aitech, AMD/ATI, ARM, CES, CoreAVI, Curtiss-Wright, Esterel, Freescale, GE-IP, Presagis, and TTTEch. Most of these solutions offer COTS certification strategies. A COTS certification package provides the evidence an aviation authority, such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), requires when certifying the airworthiness of an avionics system. By leveraging a COTS DO-178C DAL A Certification Package, companies will reduce the time, cost, and risk required to develop, integrate and certify a safety-critical distributed application.
The RTI Connect DDS Cert package should garner deep interest by emerging sUAS companies that want to move their sUAS software from a highly constrained FAA Section 333 exception operation, which does not require FAA RTCA DO-178C certification for onboard avionics software and DO-254 for avionics hardware. To move upmarket these firms will need to prove the safety qualities of their platforms so that they can fly in the National Airspace (NAS), where commercial airliner fly, which requires RTCA DO-178C and DO-254 certification.
Like many new markets the companies that prove their quality early tend to capture strong positions at the high end of that market. sUAS (and larger UAVs and UAS platforms) can now utilize commercial software foundations to rapidly create safe and compelling solutions that can form a baseline for expanding their flight operations. With a multi-level safety partitioning operating system platform like VxWorks 653 they can also minimize the amount of code subject to high certification levels by placing software of different safety criticality levels into separate ARINC 653 partitions, decreasing the overall system certification burden.
The 2016 airborne challenge. Now that the FACE Consortium has created three FACE Technical Standard Verification Authorities, the next leap in quality, capability, and interoperability will be a double ticket of FACE conformance and RTCA DO-178C certification. In addition Wind River will be releasing a wide range of secure cloud connection technologies in the coming months, completing a powerful offering of next generation tactical cloud forward foundations. 2016 should be a fascinating year for raising the quality and capability bar for a wide range of airborne systems.