AdaCore, a commercial software solutions company, is developing new software capabilities like reuse and portability while adapting to open system standards that are becoming more common within avionics systems. Franco Gasperoni, CEO of AdaCore, spoke with Avionics International about the changes his company is making and what future capabilities he wants to develop within the standards.
AdaCore does not directly use the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) standards because they do not develop avionics systems, instead, they are working to help their customers develop FACE conformant software. Gasperoni said one of the main areas they are focusing on with FACE is reuse capabilities.
The FACE technical standard provides requirements for constructing avionics software. Conforming to these requirements ensures that software products are safe, secure, and functional. Through its streamlined process, the FACE approach aims to lower software development and integration costs, and, by doing so, boost avionics abilities.
Gasperoni recently spoke about his work with FACE at a Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM). Following the TIM, one of his takeaways was the convergence of the military service branches and how they all work together. This is essential knowledge for Gasperoni since his company supplies software for many defense contractors.
“I got a sense they were really trying to pull their avionics efforts together under this MOSA umbrella and it wasn’t just FACE, and that’s because FACE just covers one aspect of the problem that the DoD is trying to solve, which is how can we reuse the pre-developed components that worked on other aircraft on new planes,” Gasperoni said.
Gasperoni said he understood that the Department of Defense (DoD) was looking towards platform integration and modeling because the best reuse cases happen at the model level where everything falls underneath, and more components can be reused.
“If they’re pooling their components and their models together, then model-based systems engineering is going to be a central aspect of their reuse strategy,” Gasperoni said. “It really reinforces one of the things that we were thinking, the defense industry, and not only defense but the avionics industry at large, is going, which is model-based, engineering. If you think about it, you’re starting at a very high level to model the system, you know with things like system outputs, and as you go down you go to Simulink, and to automatic code generation–the more you automate the easier it is for us.”
Reuse also helps with another goal: portability.
“You can say yeah we can use most of this stuff but if you’re going to spend millions in trying to transport it to a new architecture, or a new operating system, then it sort of defeats the reuse,” Gasperoni said.
AdaCore joined the Open Group’s FACE consortium in 2012 and became a principal member last year. According to Gasperoni, they have allocated staff to participate in the development and monitoring of the FACE standards. In doing this they have made sure their products directly support customers using the FACE conformant software in Ada.
“We have to pay attention to it [FACE] then so engineering adapts to say okay this standard is important for our customers and so we’re going to make our relevant products FACE compliant,” Gasperoni said.
According to Gasperoni, a key element is runtime libraries, which AdaCore provides. These allow customers to have concurrency as part of their application in a portable fashion.
“Everybody can do concurrency, and everybody can do it in every language. The challenge is, can you do it portably,” Gaspersoni said.
Gasperoni said he is developing a coding standard that will check if the features a customer is using in an application are FACE compliant. When looking towards the future, Gasperoni is excited about the development of what he called the proof engine.
“One of the things which is very exciting, and that we’re working on is incorporating, is a proof engine, where you can check and you can specify in your program properties and you can do it if you want to do it in C, you can do it in C and if you want to do it in ADA, you can do it in ADA, by specifying those properties,” Gasperoni said.
The proof technologies demonstrate that customers should put restrictions on the type of features they use with software languages. Using the concept of a code-proofing technology is to add a double check to avionics systems that would work like spell-checking.
“The developer, the software engineer, has to make a big jump between those things where humans are good, at creative thinking, at a big picture architecture, and things that are a bit tedious,” Gasperoni said.
Gasperoni said that while humans have more computational power to do certain tasks, computers add a lot more value in these areas.
“But when that is off, then we can say you know what, this I will let check the computer and if you got something wrong, the computer will tell you and fix it,” Gasperoni said.
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