Future Vertical Lift pioneering a software centric design process as software will be 70-90% of the system cost

Future Vertical Lift, or FVL, is an initiative looking at the next-generation of rotorcraft for 2040 and beyond for the U.S. military. FVL recently added new architecture, which promises to increase safety and security and reduce cost overruns, delays and performance problems, according to Alex Boydston.

It’s called Architecture Centric Virtual Integration Process, or ACVIP, a type of Joint Common Architecture, or JCA, and it’s so new, it’s still in the demonstration phase.

Architecture consists of a plan, standard procedures, software, computer language and models shared by all of the engineers. It can be thought of like a blueprint that an architect creates to erect a building, but in this case, an aircraft.

“An important aspect of ACVIP,” Boydston said, “is that it contains ‘a single source of truth’ which means that information in the architecture models are stored in such a way that when updates or changes are made, revised information is available to all designers and analysts so there are no inconsistencies.”

The foundation for ACVIP has its origins with the Aerospace Vehicle Systems Institute, or AVSI, a consortium of commercial aerospace companies and government agencies, Boydston said.

In 2008, AVSI launched System Architecture Virtual Integration, or SAVI, “to address the problem of growth in complexity in systems leading to cost and schedule overruns,” he said.

The objective was to develop a standards-based Virtual Integration Process that allows multiple parties to integrate and analyze systems virtually throughout the development lifecycle.

ACVIP’s architecture, built two years ago, “leverages SAVI to a great extent,” Boydston said.

The next step was to select a computer language.

AMRDEC did a survey of several architectural description languages and found that Architecture Analysis and Design Language, or AADL, was a good language to use when describing “complex software and an intensive system,” which FVL will feature.

The AADL will likely be used as the modeling language and will be integrated within the software and hardware that controls FVL and its mission systems. AMRDEC is also looking at using other languages like Unified Modeling Language, he added.

Getting the software right from the get-go is no small matter of importance, Boydston said.

“Software interaction complexity drives system costs,” he said, noting that in 1997, software as a percentage of total system cost for the average new system was 45 percent. By 2010, it was 66 percent, and by 2024, it’s expected to be 88 percent.