What are Multi-core Safety-Critical Avionics?

What Is a Multi-core Processor?

A multi-core processor is a type of central processing unit (CPU) that integrates multiple individual processing units, known as cores, onto a single chip. Each core functions as an independent unit, capable of executing tasks concurrently. In simpler terms, it’s like having multiple brains working together in a single body.

Key Features and Benefits

The collaborative work of multiple cores significantly enhances the processor’s ability to handle tasks and execute instructions swiftly.

The results include:

• Parallel processing power: Each core can handle a separate task concurrently, meaning that a multi-core processor divides the workload and dramatically reduces the time required to execute tasks. This feature is particularly advantageous for applications that involve complex computations, multimedia processing, and multitasking scenarios.

• Enhanced performance: Instead of relying solely on a single core to handle all tasks, multiple cores allow efficient distribution of workloads. This leads to quicker task execution, smoother multitasking, and improved responsiveness.

• Efficient multitasking: While one core might handle resource-intensive tasks, another can manage background processes such as system maintenance or downloads. This segregation ensures that different tasks don’t compete for resources, preventing slowdowns and ensuring a seamless computing experience.

• Energy efficiency: Traditional single-core processors often experience increased power consumption and heat generation when pushed to their limits. Multi-core processors, on the other hand, can distribute workloads among cores, reducing the load on individual cores and consuming less power. This leads to improved energy efficiency, longer battery life for portable devices, and reduced cooling requirements for desktop systems.

• Future-proofing: As software and applications become more sophisticated, the demand for processing power continues to rise. Multi-core processors provide needed scalability. Manufacturers can increase the number of cores on a chip, ensuring that systems remain capable of handling new and demanding tasks.

• Task optimization: Some multi-core processors include specialized cores designed for specific tasks, such as graphics processing units (GPUs) for graphics-intensive applications or artificial intelligence (AI) accelerators for machine learning tasks. This specialization enables efficient handling of specific workloads, leading to improved performance and faster task completion overall.

What Are Multi-core Safety-Critical Avionics?

The technology that underpins the operation of aircraft is continuously evolving to ensure that passengers and crew can travel with confidence. One significant advancement is the integration of multi-core processors into safety-critical avionics systems. This innovation has the potential to revolutionize the way aircraft are controlled, monitored, and maintained, but it also brings to light important considerations for maintaining the highest levels of safety.

» Learn More About Safety-Critical Systems: www.windriver.com/solutions/learning/real-time-safety-critical-systems

Understanding Multi-Core Safety-Critical Avionics

Multi-core safety-critical avionics involves the integration of multi-core processors into avionic systems that are vital for the safe operation of an aircraft. Avionics systems encompass a wide range of functionalities, including flight control, navigation, communication, surveillance, and monitoring. The incorporation of multi-core processors allows these systems to execute tasks concurrently, leading to enhanced performance, responsiveness, and efficiency.

Key Benefits of Multi-Core Safety-Critical Avionics

Multi-core safety-critical avionics systems embody the fusion of advanced processing technology with the uncompromising demand for aviation safety. The benefits are numerous, including:

• Redundancy and fault tolerance: Multi-core systems can be designed with redundancy in mind. In the event of a core failure, the system can automatically switch to a backup core, maintaining the system’s integrity and functionality.

• Performance and efficiency: Multi-core processors can handle multiple tasks simultaneously, improving the overall efficiency of avionics systems. This is particularly valuable for systems that require real-time responses, such as flight control and collision avoidance.

• Complexity handling: As aircraft systems become more sophisticated, the processing demands increase. Multi-core processors can handle the complexity of modern avionics applications, ensuring accurate and timely data processing.

• Future-proofing: The aviation industry is continually evolving. Multi-core processors provide the scalability required to accommodate future upgrades and advancements in avionics technology.

Challenges and Considerations

While the benefits are clear, integrating multi-core processors into safety-critical avionics systems poses significant challenges:

• Certification and safety assurance: Avionics systems are subject to rigorous certification standards to ensure that they meet stringent safety and reliability requirements. The introduction of multi-core processors demands thorough testing and verification to guarantee that they do not compromise the system’s overall safety.

• Deterministic behavior: Safety-critical avionics systems require deterministic behavior, meaning they must respond predictably and consistently to various inputs and scenarios. Multi-core processors introduce complexities that can potentially impact the predictability of system behavior.

• Interference and timing: Inter-core communication and contention for shared resources can introduce timing uncertainties. Ensuring that critical tasks are executed within precise time limits becomes crucial in maintaining safe operations.

• Software complexity: Designing software that efficiently utilizes multiple cores while maintaining safety-critical standards is a significant challenge. The potential for software bugs and interactions between cores necessitates meticulous testing and validation.

Ensuring Safety in Multi-core Avionics

To address these challenges and ensure the highest levels of safety, aviation authorities, manufacturers, and developers follow strict guidelines and development practices:

• DO-178C: This certification document outlines the software considerations for airborne systems. The result of a U.S.-European collaboration, it guides the development and certification of avionics software, including that which runs on multi-core processors.

• Review by certification authorities: Regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) play a pivotal role in certifying avionics systems. Multi-core safety-critical systems must undergo their thorough reviews and testing to obtain certification.

• Deterministic partitioning: Avionics systems are partitioned to isolate critical tasks from noncritical ones. This minimizes the potential for interference and ensures deterministic behavior.

• Safety analysis: Rigorous safety analyses, including failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) and fault tree analysis (FTA), are conducted to identify potential areas of failure and ensure robust operation.

How Can Wind River Help?

VxWorks 653 Multi-core Edition

VxWorks® 653 is a safe, secure, and reliable real-time operating system (RTOS) that delivers an open virtualization platform with robust time and space partitioning on the latest Arm®, Intel®, and PowerPC multi-core processor platforms. With technology proven by more than 360 customers over 600 safety programs in more than 100 civilian and military aircraft, VxWorks 653 is driving the transition to software-defined systems in aerospace and defense, bringing innovative technology that solves real business problems. It offers:

• Trust: VxWorks 653 is a world leader in real-time operating environments, with a proven track record that includes the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A400M, and the Northrop Grumman UH-60V Black Hawk avionics upgrade.

• Robust partitioning: The RTOS provides support for a partitioned open architecture and robust partitioning that enables suppliers to modify an application that is part of an existing certified system and only retest the scope of the components that have changed. This dramatically reduces recertification costs and total cost of ownership (TCO).

• Multilevel safety: High safety and security assurance comes from the multi-core scheduler that uses hardware virtualization assist.

• Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) certification evidence: COTS certification artifacts can accelerate the time required to accomplish certification, reducing schedule risk.

• Independent build, link, and load: VxWorks 653 is designed around a multi-supplier, role-based supply chain, per RTCA DO-297. It allows application suppliers to asynchronously develop, test, and deliver software applications independently.

• Maintenance and support: Clients receive full access to the Wind River® worldwide support organization and a specialized team of Professional Services engineers with extensive experience in delivering design, integration, and optimization services.

• Unmodified guest OS: VxWorks 653 supports integration of both legacy applications and new applications to shared multi-core Arm, Intel, and Power PC architecture platforms; VxWorks and Wind River Linux guest OSes are supported out of the box.

VxWorks Cert Edition

VxWorks Cert Edition is a platform for safety-critical applications that require DO-178C, IEC 61508, IEC 62304, or ISO 26262 certification evidence for the avionics, transportation, industrial automation, and automotive industries.

For four decades, our software has been trusted to enable the highest levels of safety, security, and reliability in the world’s most critical systems. VxWorks Cert Edition provides a certifiable RTOS for regulated industries developing and certifying safe, secure, and reliable solutions.

VxWorks Cert Edition:

• Is tightly coupled to specific hardware

• Is written in lower-level languages such as C/C++

• Interacts directly with hardware (e.g., peripherals)

• Requires specialized development and management tools

• Tends to have a long lifecycle and stateful execution

• Faces an increasing diversity of end hardware and software deployed in the field

The avionics market has a history of success using standard commercial microprocessors for a variety of flight-critical applications that can directly affect aircraft safety and reliability. To ensure that airborne systems are developed according to the rigorous quality principles necessary, the global aerospace community developed the RTCA DO-178C/EUROCAE ED-12C airborne avionics standards to provide guidance on creating, certifying, and deploying these devices. These specifications are now uniformly enforced by a wide range of commercial aviation control organizations, including the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Transport Canada, and others.

The aviation community reviewed input from every aerospace manufacturer in the world to create these specifications, which define 71 objectives that describe recommended software lifecycle and testing guidelines for the aviation industry. Wind River DO-178C and ED-12C COTS certification evidence includes a complete certification package that meets these stringent objectives, supporting faster time-to-market and competitive advantage through leveraging additional, ready-made technologies from Wind River partners.

» Read the VxWorks Cert Edition Product Overview: www.windriver.com/resource/vxworks-cert-edition-product-overview

Wind River

Wind River is a global leader in delivering software for mission-critical intelligent systems. The software-defined AI-first world is transforming market segments ranging from aerospace to industrial, defense to medical, and telecom to automotive. In this world increasingly driven by software innovation, Wind River® has been a technology pioneer, from having the first real-time operating system on Mars to playing a key role in the world’s first successful 5G data session and in building one of the largest Open RAN networks in the world.

Wind River is accelerating digital transformation across industries by delivering the software and expertise that enable the development, deployment, operations, and servicing of mission-critical intelligent systems from the edge to the cloud.

Wind River technology is found in billions of products and is backed by world-class services and support and a broad partner ecosystem.

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