COTS vs. Custom Graphics for Military Avionics
Avionics integrators frequently find themselves stretched to the breaking point with limited resources, budgetary restrictions, and shortening timelines. Customers are looking for investment from the integrator to keep costs down. Even with the integrator’s value add being at the system and application level, they still find themselves designing bespoke single board computers and graphics cards because they cannot find a COTS design that meets the design criteria, certification, or qualification rigor required to meet their requirements. The cost, risk, and complexity of such a design are very high.
COTS hardware suppliers have large design teams, turning out the latest hardware technologies as standard products with the lower manufacturing costs and purchasing power that comes with higher component volumes. Suppose those COTS hardware suppliers were to evolve to a higher-than-COTS standard by developing according to RTCA DO-254 and qualifying to DO-160? Integrators would then be able to adopt these COTS products while also having the option to certify the end system if required using artifacts based on the design process. Graphics boards, in particular, can benefit from the COTS approach; the need to use the latest generation of graphics processors and drivers greatly increases the cost, complexity, and risk of bespoke custom designs, whereas the COTS model can reduce or eliminate all of these. This paper delves into the evolution of COTS graphics module design and its advantages to the Military Avionics integrators.
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- DO-254 and DO-178 safety certifiable COTS graphics hardware
- Design Assurance Levels (DAL)
- Challenges to safety certification in defense applications