The Aerospace Research and Technology Centre (CTAE) and the Technical University of Catalonia (UPC) joined forces in late 2006 to organize an innovative professional training course in quality assurance for critical software and systems, with the support of UPC Foundation and the University of Ohio. To date, two successful editions of the course have been held with international participation, and a third edition is scheduled for February 2009, in Barcelona.

We understand as critical those software items and systems in which a malfunction may harm humans and/or animals, damage the environment, destroy infrastructure, or cause structural damage. An illustrative example is the challenge that must be addressed to seamlessly introduce Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) into non-segregated airspace from an Air Traffic Management (ATM) perspective. There is a growing demand for safety-critical software and systems whose risks are managed with the methods and tools of safety engineering. A life-critical system is designed to behave as needed even when pieces fail; this is illustrated by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) specification that fewer than one life per billion (109) hours of operation should be lost (Advisory Circular 25.1309-1A).

The difficulty frequently remarked upon by companies lies in finding trained professionals in this complex field, which includes quality assurance according to the relevant standards, methods, processes and techniques. This course was created with the aim of providing the participant with the academic state-of-the-art knowledge and advances, together with a practical view of how these solutions are implemented in current and future projects with industry. The three participating companies bring hands-on expertise in a spectrum of applications ranging from biomedical and space-borne systems (NTE), flight segment and avionics in launchers (GTD), and ground segment and navigation systems (INDRA). Moreover, each edition of the course features an invited speaker to complement the lectures.

The course covers the following main topics: an introduction to safety, an overview of systems and systems engineering, life-cycle models, an exhaustive view of safety analysis methods (including functional hazards models, fault tree analysis, Markov analysis, failure mode and effect analysis), standards and certifications at American and European levels, requirements and traceability, software safety, verification, tool qualification, configuration management and certification aspects. Additionally, a review of real-time operating systems and control systems (including specifications, closed-loop, structural conditions) is also given, as well as practical aspects in coding, verifying and validating (V&V) software in these systems.

The course also fosters the exchange of ideas among different institutions and builds up partnering and networking initiatives, all of which is helping Catalonia to become a centre of excellence in this area.


Please contact:
Josep Maria Fuertes i Armengol
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain
Tel: +34 93 401 72 90

Marcel Quintana Claramunt
Aerospace Research and Technology Centre (CTAE), Spain
Tel: +34 93 664 26 44

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