Software Verification Using COTS Tools - Issues and Solutions Surrounding GATM and DO-178B

Air Force Instruction 63-1301 dated 9 May 2001, "Assurance of Global Air Traffic Management Certifications" states that the purpose of Global Air Traffic Management (GATM) and Navigation Safety certification is to ensure Air Force aircraft and Air Force managed aircraft acquisitions, and modifications, conform to appropriate civil requirements.

The GATM certification process described in this document references the civil standards used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including Advisory Circulars. FAA Advisory Circular AC 20-115B recognizes DO-178B as a means of demonstrating compliance to the Federal Aviation Regulations for the software aspects of airborne systems and equipment. This means that DO-178B will need to be used as a means of evaluating software for GATM certification.

Due to the safety-critical nature of many airborne systems, the Federal Aviation Administration requires that airborne software be developed to the highest levels of quality. To this end, the FAA provides guidance for the development, test and certification of software in the RTCA DO-178B document. DO-178B contains guidelines and provisions that result in disciplined software development processes—if followed.

Software development can be a very repetitive and human-labor intensive process. This can often result in errors, as well as high costs. For these reasons various tools have been developed to automate portions of this process. If the tools are dependable, then improvements in productivity and lower numbers of in-service errors may be realized. DO-178B describes "Software Verification Tools" as ones that replace or automate a manual verification process of DO-178B (e.g., coverage analysis tools) and that cannot introduce errors, but may fail to detect them.

So how do we meet the guidelines described in DO-178B? This document answers this question by describing three key lessons, and a golden rule, that can be learned from the development of avionics systems in accordance with DO-178B.

Starting with a brief look at what is meant by that infamous term, "software quality", this paper takes a quick look at the validation and verification activities that are used to achieve it. This paper will not dwell on the details of DO-178B, but will cut to the chase with three key DO-178B software verification lessons and a golden rule that you can start implementing today, and will consider the role that Software Validation tools play when used for structural coverage analysis.

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