What Are DO-178C and ED-12C?
Safety is the top priority in the aviation industry. Whether it’s a civilian plane, a military jet, or an unmanned aerial vehicle, the reliability and integrity of onboard software are essential to guaranteeing safe and secure operations. This blog will look at the importance of DO-178C (and its EASA equivalent ED-12C, henceforth DO-178C), the sector it affects, and the mechanisms it uses to demonstrate compliance.
The Aviation Industry and its Unique Challenges
The aviation business has complex systems, cutting-edge technologies, and strict safety regulations. Software tools are essential to use during the design and development of these systems. A systematic approach to software development and verification is mandated by the regulatory bodies such as FAA and EASA given the rising reliance on software and the potential risks it poses. Here, DO-178C enters the picture.
What is DO-178C?
The DO-178C, also known as “Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification,” is a standard that was released by the RTCA (Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics). It outlines the goals and methods for creating the software used in airborne systems. By outlining the procedures, actions, and artifacts required for compliance, DO-178C offers a formal framework for guaranteeing airborne software’s security, dependability, and maintainability.
The primary objective of DO-178C is to ensure that software used in airborne systems functions as intended and does not pose any safety risks. The compliance process encompasses all aspects of software development, from planning and requirements to coding, testing, configuration management, and verification. Compliance levels, also referred to as Software Levels (DAL A, B, C, and D), are determined based on the significance of the software’s function, as well as the size, complexity, and functionality of the code. The higher the DAL level, the more rigorous controls are required from software developers. And as you might expect, a DAL A system will cost a lot more time and money to produce based on the development constraints and evidence one must produce for certification.
Key Components of DO-178C
- Software Planning: In this preliminary stage, plans for the development and verification of software, including its traceability, resources, and timetables, are defined. This lays the groundwork for the succeeding steps.
- Software Requirements: To make reliable software, you need clear, precise requirements. This is emphasized by DO-178C, which requires that a software requirement is traceable to a higher-level system requirement, its SW function, its verification cases, as well as the code.
- Software Design: The design phase makes an architectural plan to do what the specifications say. To make sure it does that, you use procedures, models, and reviews.
- Software Implementation: During this phase, the software is coded and documentation produced, including standards, instructions, and test cases. This is required by the DO-178C standard and has code reviews and coding standards to reduce errors.
- Software Verification: Verification activities, like unit testing, integration testing, and system testing, are needed to make sure the software meets expectations and criteria. Functional and structural coverage analysis must be included depending on the DAL level Also, depending on the DAL level, one must show independence. This means that the person that writes a requirement must be different than the person that reviews the requirement. The person that writes the software code must be different than the person that tests that code.
- Configuration Management: DO-178C focuses on configuration management to make sure changes to software are monitored, tracked, and documented throughout development.
Benefits and Impact
The aviation industry gains many advantages by following DO-178C. By adhering to these strict criteria, organizations can ensure they are following the processes called out in the regulations and that they are meeting the highest standards of aviation development safety:
- Enhanced Safety: By focusing on safety, DO-178C reduces the chance of problems caused by software.
- Regulatory Compliance: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recognize DO-178C as an acceptable means of compliance for software safety, as a condition of issuing an airworthiness certification.
RELATED: Functional Safety (FuSA) Explained: The Vital Role of Standards and Compliance in Ensuring Critical Systems’ Safety
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Note: This article was drafted with the aid of AI. Additional content, edits for accuracy, and industry expertise by Decoteau Wilkerson and Cary Bryczek.