DO-254 Design Assurance Guidance for Airborne Electronic Hardware

RTCA/DO-254, published in 2000 is the document providing guidance for design assurance of airborne electronic hardware to ensure airworthiness.  The title of the document may be misleading; it implies that the document provides guidance for various aspects of hardware to be used in aircraft.  Instead, the DO-254 document and advisory circulars from the FAA mostly focus on the hardware programmable devices (FPGAs and ASICs).



FPGAs and ASICs are devices whose functionality is defined using special programs that are translated to loadable structures that create interconnections between hardware gates.  The resulting programs can create data structures and functional operators that can behave like a traditional computer, but can also execute many elements concurrently thus providing great speed and flexibility.

The programs are written in a high level and they are translated through various forms with optimizations and transformations to make them efficient.  The process is similar to software development with requirements, design, testing in a simulator, testing on a target device, with the additional activities of deployment and maintenance.  However, testing can be more difficult than with software, as the level of concurrency and access to the internal data structures makes this more difficult.

DO-254 describes the activities that may be used to produce the artifacts to be presented as part of a certification data package.  With appropriate care and attention, information related to development, design, and verification can be established to the satisfaction of the authorities.

The programming languages and tools for FPGAs and ASICs may appear daunting to a non-expert.  A thorough knowledge of DO-254 and the tools used is required for a successful project.  To make this easier, at Verocel we use our lifecycle management tool VeroTrace to manage requirements, design capture, test management, problem reporting and all review and traceability artifacts.

If you’d like to discuss your project needs or would like more information please get in touch