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DO-178C Tool Qualification Package & Considerations

DO-178C Tool Qualification Package & Considerations

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The DO-178C standard, formally known as “Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification,” is a widely recognized guideline for the development of software in avionics systems. It provides a framework for the certification of software used in safety-critical airborne systems. To comply with DO-178C, various tools are employed throughout the software development lifecycle. However, the use of these tools requires careful qualification to ensure their reliability and suitability for the intended purpose. This article explores the concept of the DO-178C tool qualification package and discusses important considerations in its implementation.

Understanding Tool Qualification

In the context of DO-178C, tool qualification refers to the process of evaluating and confirming that a software tool is appropriate for its intended use in the development of airborne systems. The objective is to ensure that the tool, when used as part of the software development process, does not introduce unacceptable risks or compromise the safety, reliability, and performance of the software.

Tool Qualification Levels

DO-178C introduces five tool qualification levels (TQLs) that reflect the potential impact of a tool’s failure or misuse on the safety of the system:

  • TQL 1: Tools that have a high potential to introduce catastrophic failures and directly affect the system’s safety. These tools require the most rigorous qualification activities.
  • TQL 2: Tools that have a significant potential to introduce hazardous failures, which may not lead to catastrophic failures but can still jeopardize the safety of the system.
  • TQL 3: Tools that have the potential to introduce major failures, impacting the functionality, maintainability, or testability of the software.
  • TQL 4: Tools that have a low potential to introduce minor failures, resulting in minor impacts on the software development process or system performance.
  • TQL 5: Tools that have no impact on the software development process, system performance, or safety and therefore do not require qualification.

Tool Qualification Process

The tool qualification process involves several key steps:

  • Tool Classification: The first step is to determine the qualification level required for the tool. This is done by assessing the tool’s impact on the software development process and the system’s safety.
  • Tool Qualification Objectives: Clear qualification objectives are defined, considering factors such as tool usage, limitations, and potential risks associated with tool failures.
  • Tool Evaluation: The tool is evaluated against specific criteria, including its functionality, documentation, verification and validation methods, development process, and adherence to relevant standards and regulations.
  • Tool Qualification Evidence: The tool qualification package should include all the necessary evidence to demonstrate the tool’s suitability for its intended use. This may include documentation, test results, analysis reports, and other artifacts.
  • Verification and Validation: The tool qualification package undergoes verification and validation activities to ensure its compliance with DO-178C requirements. This may involve independent audits, reviews, and inspections.
  • Maintenance of Qualification: Once qualified, the tool must be maintained throughout its lifecycle. Any changes or updates to the tool should be carefully evaluated to determine if requalification is necessary.

Considerations for Tool Qualification

Tool Selection

Choosing the right tool is crucial for successful tool qualification. Considerations when selecting a tool for DO-178C compliance include:

  • Functional Fit: The tool should meet the specific requirements of the software development process and align with the project’s objectives.
  • Vendor Support: Evaluate the tool vendor’s expertise, support capabilities, and commitment to maintaining and updating the tool.
  • Documentation: The tool should have comprehensive documentation that covers its functionality, limitations, and usage guidelines.
  • Tool Confidence Level: Consider the tool’s qualification level and the impact it can have on the system’s safety.
  • Tool Familiarity: Assess the team’s familiarity and experience with the tool, as well as its integration with existing development processes.

Tool Qualification Plan

Developing a well-defined tool qualification plan is essential. The plan should outline:

  • Qualification objectives and activities for each tool.
  • Roles and responsibilities of the team members involved in the qualification process.
  • Schedule and milestones for qualification activities.
  • Criteria for tool selection, evaluation, and acceptance.
  • Documentation requirements and deliverables for the tool qualification package.
  • Change management procedures for tool updates or replacements.

Tool Verification and Validation

Thorough verification and validation of the tool qualification package are critical to ensure its compliance. Considerations include:

  • Test Coverage: The qualification package should cover all relevant functionalities and use cases of the tool.
  • Independence: Verification and validation activities should involve independent parties who are not directly associated with the tool’s development or use.
  • Traceability: Ensure that there is traceability between the qualification objectives, evidence, and the DO-178C requirements.
  • Configuration Management: Proper configuration management practices should be implemented to control and track changes to the qualified tool.

Tool Maintenance and Obsolescence

As technology evolves, tools may become obsolete or require updates. Considerations for tool maintenance include:

  • Change Management: Establish a robust change management process to evaluate the impact of tool updates or replacements on qualification status.
  • Version Control: Maintain a clear version control strategy for both the qualified tool and its associated qualification artifacts.
  • Tool Monitoring: Continuously monitor the qualified tool for any unexpected behavior, errors, or issues that may arise during its usage.
  • Documentation Updates: Ensure that the tool qualification package is updated whenever there are changes to the qualified tool or its associated processes.

Visure Tool Qualification Package

Visure is a software tool widely used in the field of requirements engineering and management. It provides a comprehensive platform for capturing, analyzing, and managing requirements throughout the software development lifecycle. When using Visure in the development of safety-critical systems, it is necessary to have a tool qualification package in place to ensure the reliability and suitability of Visure for its intended use. This article explores the components and considerations involved in the Visure tool qualification package.

Components of the Visure Tool Qualification Package

The Visure tool qualification package typically consists of the following key components:

Tool Description

The tool description provides an overview of Visure, highlighting its main functionalities, purpose, and capabilities. It includes details such as the version of Visure being used, the vendor information, and any relevant documentation associated with the tool.

Tool Configuration

The tool configuration section describes the specific configuration settings and customizations applied to Visure for the project. This includes information about the project-specific templates, workflows, fields, and user roles defined within Visure. It also covers any extensions or plugins used to enhance the tool’s functionality.

Tool Usage

The tool usage section outlines the intended use of Visure within the software development process. It provides a detailed explanation of how Visure is employed for requirements management, traceability, impact analysis, and other related activities. This section also includes guidelines and best practices for using Visure effectively and efficiently.

Tool Validation

Tool validation involves assessing the accuracy and correctness of Visure’s output and functionality. This section describes the validation activities performed to ensure that Visure generates accurate results, maintains data integrity, and performs as expected. It includes details about the test cases, test procedures, and test results obtained during the validation process.

Tool Verification

Tool verification focuses on confirming that Visure complies with the defined requirements, standards, and regulations. This section describes the verification activities conducted to ensure that Visure satisfies the specified functional and non-functional requirements. It includes information about the verification methods used, such as reviews, inspections, and audits, along with the corresponding verification results.

Tool Documentation

Proper documentation is crucial for the tool qualification package. This section includes all relevant documentation associated with Visure, such as user manuals, installation guides, configuration guides, and release notes. It also incorporates any additional documentation created specifically for the tool qualification process, including the tool qualification plan and reports.

Tool Maintenance

The tool maintenance section outlines the procedures for maintaining Visure throughout its lifecycle. It covers aspects such as version control, change management, and handling software updates or patches. It also includes guidelines for maintaining the tool qualification package up-to-date with any changes or enhancements made to Visure.

Considerations for Visure Tool Qualification

Tool Selection

Selecting Visure as the requirements engineering tool requires careful consideration. Ensure that Visure aligns with the project’s specific requirements, provides the necessary features and functionalities, and has a proven track record in safety-critical domains. Consider factors such as vendor support, tool maturity, and compatibility with existing processes and standards.

Qualification Objectives

Clearly define the qualification objectives for Visure. Identify the specific safety-critical aspects of the project that rely on Visure, and establish the necessary criteria for the tool’s qualification. This includes determining the tool qualification level as per the project requirements and industry standards.

Tool Evaluation

Evaluate Visure against the defined qualification objectives and criteria. Assess its functionalities, reliability, performance, and compliance with relevant standards such as ISO 26262 or DO-178C. Consider factors such as the tool’s traceability capabilities, impact analysis features, and integration capabilities with other development tools.

Documentation and Traceability

Ensure that the tool qualification package includes comprehensive documentation that covers all aspects of Visure’s usage, configuration, validation, and verification. Establish traceability between the tool qualification objectives, evidence, and safety requirements. Properly document the tool configuration and any customization applied to Visure for the project.

Tool Maintenance and Updates

Implement robust change management processes to handle updates, patches, and new versions of Visure. Establish procedures for evaluating the impact of tool updates on the qualification status and perform necessary requalification activities if required. Maintain a clear version control strategy for both Visure and the associated qualification artifacts.

Training and Familiarity

Ensure that the development team receives appropriate training on the usage and best practices of Visure. Familiarize the team with the tool’s features, capabilities, and limitations. Encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration among team members to maximize the benefits of using Visure.


The qualification of tools used in the DO-178C software development process is essential to ensure the safety and reliability of airborne systems. A thorough tool qualification package, incorporating proper evaluation, verification, and validation, is necessary to demonstrate the suitability of a tool for its intended use. Considerations such as tool selection, qualification planning, verification and validation, and tool maintenance play crucial roles in the successful qualification of software development tools. By following these considerations, developers can confidently use qualified tools while complying with the DO-178C standard and enhancing the safety of airborne systems. To explore the capabilities of Visure and experience its benefits firsthand, we encourage you to check out the free 30-day trial of Visure Solutions. Start your trial today and discover how Visure can enhance your requirements engineering and management processes.

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