The Role of Safety Critical Architecture in an Evolving Ecosystem 2021-01-1000
There are many industries where safety is a major, if not the primary, concern, such as aviation and nuclear power. These industries rely on many layers of standards for designing, developing, and deploying safety critical systems and technologies. While unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations and UAS Traffic Management (UTM) are often touted as “safety critical”, the systems and technologies are not being held to the same standards as traditional aviation, with its long pedigree of safety.
There are multiple reasons for this dichotomy. One such reason is that design assurance standards, such as DO-178 for software, do not fit with modern technology such as web-based communication and machine learning. At the architecture level, the federated approach to UTM has led to a void in the Systems Engineering process. Nobody “owns” the entire system and therefore nobody owns the Systems Engineering process where many safety related design decisions are traditionally made. Without certification to design assurance standards, the UTM industry will instead need to look towards higher level performance-based standards. Safety levels for the ecosystem will be encapsulated by risk ratios and target level of safety metrics. Standards groups, such as ASTM, are looking at how risk ratios trace to performance requirements such as Detect and Avoid (DAA). While these endeavors are necessary to begin defining some level of UTM performance requirements, the gap in the Systems Engineering process remains.