Abaco was one of four partners selected by Presagis to showcase the latest VAPS developments to the VAPS User Group at the Royal Air Force Club on London’s Piccadilly.
Presagis’s VAPS XT is described by the company as the world’s first COTS object-oriented DO-178 C qualified HMI tool. VAPS XT-178 is a safety-critical software package for creating embedded display graphics for avionics projects intended for RTCA DO-178 C certification. It retains the core features of the popular object-oriented VAPS XT HMI tool and adds features that allow end users to claim credit towards their certification requirements.
We showed the latest VAPS release running on our MAGIC1 Rugged Display Computer, which is designed to be deployed to drive aircraft cockpit displays. Wind River Systems showed VAPS integration with its new VxWorks release; MathWorks showed new VAPS development tools; and General Dynamics showed VAPS integration with a real application, GD’s SoftMap.
For me, one of the biggest takeaways from the event was that the forthcoming release of Arinc661 Part 2 further defines interfacing to cockpit displays, including the use of gestures. We’re all, of course, used to gestures such as swipe and pinch on our tablets and cellphones, and gesture technology is now making its way into cars as a faster, more intuitive interface to the car’s control systems.
That’s a response to the increasing complexity of automotive technology – and that’s no less the case for pilots. On an aircraft, increasing numbers of sensors and volumes of data mean that the pilot’s workload is increasing; gestures are a way to automate tasks and reduce the number of actions a pilot needs to take. The question is: how can gestures be added to certifiable cockpit displays in an unambiguous way? We need to make sure that there is no scope for misinterpretation or any accidental side effects.
Aircraft builders differ in their views and it was fascinating to see how new VAPS development tools make it easy to compile-in gesture definitions - for example, using the pinch gesture to zoom in and out of a map display, or adding a feature to allow the pilot to rotate the view at the same time.
Significantly reduced workload
The other thing that caught my imagination was the massive benefit of Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) architectures when it comes to certification. The IMA concept replaces numerous separate processors and line replaceable units with fewer, more centralized processing units, promising significant weight reduction and maintenance savings. IMA makes it possible to host multiple applications on a reduced number of mission computers, replacing federated systems where each application typically resided on its own hardware.
The implication of IMA for certification is a significantly reduced workload. If an application changes, then this is only a change to one of the software applications running. With an operating system such as VxWorks653, the application’s environment is tightly controlled - meaning that only the changed software element needs to be considered against an aircraft’s overall certification plan. The hardware has not changed, so no recertification of that is required.
It was very worthwhile to be at the event – not just because we got good interest from those present in our MAGIC1, but also to get good insight into some of the things that are going on in the industry and that will likely be influential for years to come.