Avionics Intelligence Chief Editor Courtney E. Howard sits down for an executive Q&A session with Michelle Lange, an expert on DO-254, DO-178, and other aviation standards and requirements and current director of marketing and sales at Logicircuit Inc. with headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga. Logicircuit has just made its DO-254 Effort Estimator tool available to the public, and Avionics Intelligence has the exclusive story.
What is unique about the Logicircuit DO-254 Effort Estimator tool?
As far as I know, it is the first publicly available tool that can help companies to estimate the effort and cost of a DO-254 program. While some of the larger and more experienced companies certainly have developed this sort of thing for their internal use, no such aid exists for others.
What was your motivation to create this tool?
When I started supporting DO-254 back in 2007, the first questions I was always faced with were “How much additional effort is this going to be?” or “How much is this going to cost me?” Now, 7 years later, this is still the most common question I hear, typically from those faced with their first DO-254 program. And even though DO-254 has been invoked as policy since 2005, more and more companies are just now facing their first programs.
Back in 2007 I really wished I had an answer. I searched high and low for information, and came up pretty much empty handed. The best I could do was find some rough statistics like effort increases between 25-75%, which I thought was pretty high. But when exploring this with companies who had actually gone through DO-254 compliance programs, I heard horror stories of more like 400% increase in effort. Of course no one would come forth and really publish anything, so it was all just hearsay. Plus the details driving these numbers were absent.
When I joined Logicircuit last May, I realized that these guys actually could answer these questions. Joe Goode and his team had done so many projects over the years, and had kept data on their programs. So I talked with the team about gathering this data and creating a tool that the industry could use to estimate effort, and they thought it was a good idea. So, while not perfect, I’m happy to say that anyone facing a DO-254 program can now at least get an idea of the factors that influence the effort, and get a rough estimate of the effort and cost. I believe that the more an individual, a team, a company or even an industry understands, the better equipped they are to face challenges. In this case, the challenge is costly compliance. The more that is understood about this, the more we can begin to drive down the costs. That’s my hope at least.
You mentioned more and more companies are facing DO-254 programs now. Why is that?
There are two main reasons: Scope change and industry change. In terms of scope change, when DO-254 first came out, it had lots of loopholes and its enforcement was inconsistent. It was only invoked on custom code for complex devices and only for commercial airborne applications. Since then, the policy has firmed up in many areas and the scope is beginning to expand to more of the electronics as well. Now people developing boards and COTS are also being requested to be DO-254 compliant. So that’s the first reason.
The second is that more military avionics and unmanned systems are starting to face DO-254 requirements. Military programs used to request DO-254 compliance but would back off when they saw the cost. That is starting to change. DO-254 is becoming more of a hard requirement for these folks. The other major change is that the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry is starting to move more and more into civil applications and civil airspace, and this means compliance to commercial airborne standards, namely DO-254 for the electronics.
What exactly does this tool do?
The tool itself is just a complex spreadsheet that lists the categories and factors that influence the cost of a DO-254 program. It’s very much based on a whitepaper I wrote on this topic last summer. The spreadsheet is set up initially with default values. These default values were derived from our experiences at Logicircuit. We explain each of the factors and the default values. The user then sets up the tool to reflect their own situation, tweaking the individual factors in a way that represents their program. Using these default values with the tuned factors will give the user a rough estimate of effort and cost. But the whole tool is also easily customizable. So if a company has kept its own data, the calculations can be modified to better reflect that company’s experience.
What should the user expect?
The user should expect that the numbers produced by this tool are one data point. This is especially true if they use the defaults we provide. The more they tune and customize it, the more realistic the results will be for that company.
How can someone get their hands on version 1 of the Logicircuit DO-254 Effort Estimator tool?
DO-254 program managers, engineering managers, and others involved in DO-254 programs can simply go to the Logicircuit website and visit our Resources area (www.logicircuit.com/resources) and request it. It is free. Since it is free and this is a first release of a new tool, I’m keeping it fairly tightly controlled. I’m also asking that users share their experience with me and any issues they find or enhancements they’d like to see. That way I can keep improving it, and we all benefit.
|About Michelle Lange |
Before joining Logicircuit as Director of Marketing and Sales in May 2013, Michelle Lange spent the past 23 years in electronic design automation for ASIC, FPGA, PCB, and systems in a variety of roles from technical communications to marketing and sales. Most recently, she spent six years driving the DO-254 program at Mentor Graphics. Michelle is currently a member of the DO-254 Users Group and has been involved in the SAE S-18 committee working on system level certification guidance, leading the working group on “Tool Assessment for System Development.”