Imagine a jet able to warn air and ground crews when the plane exhibits the earliest symptoms of a serious problem. This long-term goal in the aviation industry is no longer limited to the realm of science fiction, as engineers under the wings of the FAA Aviation Safety Program use DDC-I’s development environment – Safety Critical, Object-oriented, Real-time Embedded (SCORE®) to develop the technology to build “health-conscious” planes: the Aircraft Condition Analysis and Management system (ACAMS).
SCORE’s multi-language capabilities allow project engineers to develop safety-critical code in Ada and compile the board support package, originally written in C, within a single integrated development environment. The Power Architecture technology target relies on SCORE’s JTAG integration to enable work at the bare board level with minimal intervening software layers, reaching down onto the board to debug by directly manipulating the processor.
Unique in the aviation industry, ACAMS offers real-time diagnosis and prognosis within a complex dynamic system, including flight subsystems, landing gear, and structural elements. Already configurable for propulsion systems, ongoing development is expected to incorporate, or simply merge with, ongoing propulsion system health management programs.
ACAMS consists of onboard and ground-based elements. In the air, proprietary models and algorithms analyze data in real time to identify and help manage anomalies. Results are automatically prioritized in accordance with user-specific criteria to assess the impact of fault conditions on future operation. If a critical anomaly appears, data is automatically transmitted to the ground crew. In certain cases, the system can even predict faults in the monitored subsystems before they occur.
On the ground, ACAMS combines collected and analyzed in-flight data with historical information like component maintenance history and reliability data, as well as quick-access recorder and flight operations quality assurance data for commercial air carriers. Such combined analysis will facilitate improved long-term, fleet-wide aircraft dispositioning and improve maintenance scheduling and parts supply management.
Future research and development is expected to include integration of ACAMS and ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System), an air-to-ground network enabling aircraft to emulate mobile computer terminals linked to a ground-based command-and-control management system.
While aircraft accidents caused by equipment failure are responsible for an estimated 23% of serious aviation mishaps, many may someday be predicted and prevented using ACAMS technology developed with SCORE®.