While many people are familiar with the software they use in everyday life, embedded software, such as that used in aerospace vehicles and devices, is very different. Rather than providing information or giving the user a medium to convey information, embedded aerospace software directly interacts with the physical world, operating on dedicated instruments, such as navigation controls, rather than a personal computer.
Embedded software can be incredibly complex or simple, used to run an entire subsystem or perform a single function such as switching off a pressure valve when the pressure hits a certain level. However, regardless of its application, all embedded software has one thing in common: It has to work right, and it has to work quickly.
The purpose of embedded software is to allow certain systems and functions to be handled automatically. In the aerospace industry, this is particularly important, as lives depend on it. Embedded software is used to control oxygen systems on spacecraft, navigation, GPS tracking, motor controls, radar and many other systems, all of which are essential to the safety and security of the individuals operating the systems it is installed on.
Innovation and improvements in the aerospace industry are also reliant on the implementation of reliable embedded software. Automating systems gives personnel the time to work on improving other areas and ensure the safety and proper operation of non-automated systems.
A significant portion of our lives are run by computers, from the cars we drive to satellites tracking weather to aerospace navigation systems. The embedded software used in these technologies has to be of the highest quality to ensure continued operation. This means quality development and thorough testing to eliminate any bugs and the risk of accidents, which could end in injury or death.
Embedded software in the aerospace industry has to meet various safety requirements, set by the FAA and various international groups. Only through testing and proper development can a developer meet these requirements, receive certification and bring a product to market without concerns about safety or security risks.