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Improving the Cockpit Application Development Process

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Vehicle design and manufacturing (VDM)
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
Airborne icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues,
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The civil flight deck and the underlying avionics are undergoing rapid developments. New human-machine interface (HMI) technologies are introduced, as well as a number of new functions to improve safety and operational efficiency. In the avionics area, aircraft integrators are shifting to software solutions on generic hardware. At the same time, human factors certification requires a structured development and validation of the HMI. For efficient development and certification of nowadays cockpit applications, new research and development processes are needed, as are suitable prototyping and design tools.


The main objective of the IMCAD project is to study and validate the use of novel technologies that could considerably reduce development costs and time-to-market for cockpit application development programmes. Particular objectives have been:

  • To identify promising ICT technologies 
  • To improve graphical specification tools 
  • To improve functional specification tools 
  • To define an integrated graphical and functional specification format 
  • To evaluate the impact of and gain experience with the new process and improved tools

IMCAD proposes a UML based development methodology starting already in the prototyping phase. In addition, IMCAD proposes a set of enhanced and better-integrated development tools to contribute to a process that will be much more flexible and more swiftly adaptable to changing customer requirements. Such tools promise a standardised and certifiable design process that would ultimately be expected to enhance aviation safety, enabling a more rapid introduction of new technologies in the cockpit.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Research (DG Research)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


IMCAD started with a study of current and proposed cockpit application development processes, methodology and guidelines. This included a survey of applicable information technologies and tools. After this study, choices have been made with respect to target architecture, interconnection of prototyping and specification tools in the development process, and a suitable formalism. This work resulted in guidelines for a UML based development methodology for Cockpit Display System (CDS) applications.

Furthermore, IMCAD improved and extended software tools for the graphical and functional part of the application development, and defined their external interfaces. This work resulted in the definition of the graphical exchange format IMCAD Graphical Format (IGF) and in a set of adapted tools, fully tailored to the IMCAD methodology.

The IGF format improves the transfer of the prototyping results towards the specification phase. The format supports exchange of graphical information of symbology displays as well as interactive displays based upon A661 widgets. The interactive part of the IMCAD IGF format was sent to the ARINC A661 committee and has been accepted (after some minor modifications) as new aeronautical standard.

The set of adapted tools consists of:

  • Improved prototyping tools for respectively symbology and interactive cockpit display applications, by adding IGF export capability for the graphical part and adding UML based export capabilities for the functional part of cockpit application prototype;
  • improved specification tool for the graphical part of CDS applications, by adding IGF import capabilities and support for connecting the graphical part with the functional part of the specification; and
  • improved specification tool for the functional part of CDS applications, by adding support for the import of UML based models specifying the functional part of the prototyping results, and by significantly increasing the power of the dataflow specification language. The language, designed for the specification of the data-driven functionality of symbology applications, is extended with support for the event-driven functionality of interactive applications.

To further improve the cockpit application development process, support for human factors and performance assessment should be given in the early-stage of the design process. Generally, performance bottlenecks lead to mismatches between actual system performance and maximum system performance.

Policy implications

The IMCAD project showed that the IGF interchange format does improve the graphical part of the cockpit application development. A significant time gain is due to IGF automatic code generation by the HMI prototyping tools O3P and Vincent, which enables efficient use of prototyping results in the specification and design phase of the cockpit application development process. Furthermore, the UML formalism enables the designer to validate all the functional behaviour of the HMI. Confusion in between stakeholders about interactive behaviour can be avoided by using UML, which improves the quality of the development process. In addition, IMCAD identified a trade-off in between the flexibility of the prototyper and the specification gain for symbology display formats. The IMCAD case study resulted in valuable hands-on experience of all involved stakeholders (research institutes, avionica manufactures, air framers and tool developers) with the proposed IMCAD methodology. These results can be further exploited by all stakeholders in the development of future aircraft by Europe.


Key Findings

No results directly relevant to this theme. However, please note that some findings relevant to the project's key theme (User Aspects) are generically applicable.

Policy Implications
No policy implications directly relevant to this theme. However, please note that some policy implications relevant to the project's key theme (User Aspects) are generically applicable.

Economic aspects

Key Findings
IMCAD improved and extended software tools for the graphical and functional part of the application development, and defined their external interf


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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