Today the use of intellectual property (IP) cores in hardware designs from all industries is ubiquitous. So the natural question is, is it allowed in DO-254 programs? And if yes, the next question is what do you need to do?
The use of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) intellectual property, (also known as IP cores or simply IP) has been exploding in every sector of the electronics industry for decades. Silicon area is readily available and using these pre-designed blocks has been a huge boon to design productivity. In fact, IP is a key enabler of cheaper, smaller, lighter, lower-power, more reliable, and more full-featured designs. Due to these benefits, this trend has even found its way into the highly conservative Aerospace and Defense (A&D) markets.
Initially, using IP seemed like an easy way around the tedious and complex compliance requirements for design mandated by RTCA/DO-254, which didn’t mention anything about using IP. It did not take long though before the certification authorities began to see industry trend and the gap in the policy, and to understand the risks. They then started clamping down on the unfettered use of IP in DO-254 programs.
Seeing an opportunity, several companies dabbled in providing DO-254 compliant IP, but without clear guidance, the endeavor had some risk. Early on, seeing the issues, the DO-254 User Group developed a position paper entitled “Considerations for the Use of COTS IP in DO-254 Programs” in order to capture the issues and provide suggestions for the certification authorities to contemplate as they strove to establish guidance in this area.
Now years later, the newly released AC/AMC 20-152A FAA/EASA harmonized documents formally establish guidance on the use of COTS IP within custom devices.
AC/AMC 20-152A supplements DO-254 with six new objectives related to COTS IP as follows:
- Objective IP-1 gives the applicant considerations for selecting appropriate IP.
- Objective IP-2 specifies criteria for evaluating an IP supplier and associated IP data.
- Objective IP-3 guides the applicant on how to address gaps in the development assurance should the IP provider not fulfill all the requirements.
- Objective IP-4 guides the applicant to establish the verification strategy for the use of IP.
- Objective IP-5 guides the applicant on documenting hardware development assurance approach for the COTS IP in the PHAC.
- Objective IP -6 focuses on capturing the requirements representing the COTS IP functions to ensure thorough verification of the functions and the safety implications.
So can you or should you use COTS IP in avionics? Sure! Just ensure you understand and meet the new guidance as specified in AC/AMC 20-152A. Also, ensure you are getting IP from sources who take compliance seriously and have done the essential work required to provide the industry with IP developed with suitable assurance and the necessary documentation and data.
Can you provide IP to this market? Sure! My consulting company, Patmos Engineering Services, has worked with several suppliers to ensure their COTS IP offerings meet the most stringent requirements for development assurance and documentation. See more information on the Patmos work with Holt IC’s MIL-STD-1553 DO-254 Certifiable IP Core here. Patmos has been on the leading edge of this trend, working with both Xilinx (on their compliant Avionics and UAV offering) and Logicircuit (on its Safe IPTM offering) on numerous IP compliance projects for over a decade. In addition, Patmos has worked on several compliant COTS and COTS IP projects with TTTech, including switches, end systems and components for their flight and rugged hardware product line.
If your company provides COTS and/or COTS IP and you want to begin supplying to the avionics market, or if you want to start using commercial IP in your DO-254 compliant designs, start by reading the requirements in the AC/AMC 20-152A policy document , and then contact us at our Consulting business for a free consultation on how to get started.