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RTCA Workshop Explores Integration of AI/ML in Aviation Standards

December 1, 2023
Home / News / RTCA Workshop Explores Integration of AI/ML in Aviation Standards

Washington, D.C., November 28, 2023 – In a gathering of nearly 200 members of the aviation community, RTCA hosted a workshop on the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Critical questions were discussed including how to address these technologies in RTCA standards and if more RTCA standards would need to be developed to meet industry and regulator needs. The event brought together industry experts, regulatory bodies, and technology innovators to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by these emerging technologies.

RTCA’s Vision for Collaboration

The workshop opened with Terry McVenes, President & CEO of RTCA, emphasizing the importance of collaboration to enhance the aviation industry’s efforts. McVenes highlighted the goal of complementing existing initiatives, both within the U.S. industry and on a global scale. “The more we can collaborate, the better we will serve the industry in the long term,” McVenes stated. Rebecca Morrison, Senior Director of Standards and Technologies at RTCA, outlined the workshop’s objectives. These included defining the impact of emerging technologies, including AI/ML, on RTCA standards, identifying relevant documents or products for industry use, and initiating the drafting of Terms of Reference (ToR) documents.

Insights from FAA 

George Romanski, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Aircraft Computer Software at the FAA, provided a comprehensive presentation on the incorporation of AI/ML in safety analysis and standards development. Romanski emphasized the complexity of software certification, highlighting the challenges posed by unstructured data and the need for robust validation and verification processes. Dr. Trung T. Pham, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for AI/ML at the FAA, echoed the importance of traceability between code and systems, urging for quick adaptation to industry advancements. Dr. Pham stressed the need for modifications to existing regulations to accommodate the unique challenges posed by AI systems.

FAA’s Roadmap for AI in Aviation and the work being done at MITRE

Avinash Pinto from MITRE presented a roadmap, addressing the scope, priorities, and principles for AI in aviation. The proposed roadmap included establishing comprehensive guidelines, defining regulatory standards, focusing on redundancy and robustness, and encouraging collaborative research and development.

Tech Innovator Perspective 

Joby Aviation’s presentation, led by Dr. Kim Wasson, outlined the distinction between process assurance and performance assurance. When seeking process assurance, developers focus on innovation, development process control, and quality considerations. When considering performance assurance, Dr. Wasson called for refined ML requirements, robust validation, explicit rationale, and a validated body of knowledge. The call to action was to continue the conversation by seeking consensus in defining the minimal interface for ML items and establishing a group for pre-standardization support in tackling performance challenges. These initiatives aim to shape dynamic standards in aviation, prioritizing both safety and innovation.

Diverse Perspectives and Industry Insights 

Additional presentations were provided by U.S. Department of Transportation, NASA, the U.S. Naval Research Labs, XWing, SAAB, Daedalean, AVSI, Collins Aerospace, and the AIA Civil Aviation Cybersecurity Subcommittee. Each presentation brought a unique perspective on safety assurance, regulatory pathways, workforce readiness, and the challenges of AI/ML methods in developing aviation systems. The workshop participants shared a commitment to move forward with the conversation while acknowledging the risk of over specifying which can stifle innovation. A recurring theme from participants was the value AI and ML can bring to the aviation industry and the need to continue exploring the risks and benefits while remaining cognizant of the safety and security concerns.

Concluding Remarks and Future Outlook 

In concluding remarks, Terry McVenes reiterated RTCA’s commitment to collaboration and coordination between RTCA and other standards organizations, and he emphasized RTCA’s commitment to avoiding duplication of efforts.

The workshop provided a platform for engaging discussions, highlighting the need for a balanced approach in setting AI/ML standards for aviation. As the industry continues to evolve, the collaborative efforts of RTCA aim to navigate the challenges and harness the potential of these transformative technologies. RTCA is evaluating the discussion from this workshop to inform the next steps in working with our members to address AI and ML in reports and standards. Thank you to those who participated!

If you didn’t have the opportunity to participate in this session and would like to be aware of future sessions, please be sure you are on our mailing list. You can join on our website https://rtca.org from any page, select “Subscribe to our Newsletter” at the bottom.

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