What is functional safety?

Full Flight Simulator (INDRA)



One of the areas where the greatest technological advances are currently being made is autonomous systems. Everyone has heard about driverless vehicles, drones and robots in industry 4.0, as well as the concerns surrounding their safety.

What these electromechanical systems have in common is that, to ensure their safe use, they are equipped with sensors and controlled using electronic control systems.

Simple examples that we see every day include garage doors that stop lowering and start rising when the presence sensor detects our car or lifts that refuse to work when their load cells detect a higher-than-permitted weight. Less commonly, this is called a safety function implemented in the command and control system.

It is therefore evident that when these systems are used, our safety depends on the reliability of these sensors detecting hazardous conditions (in the examples, the presence of our car and an excess of weight), on the electronics used to build the control logical, including its SW, and on the actuators that will place the system in a safe mode, for example the stopped lift or the garage door opening.

There are standards for assessing the functional safety of machines, robots, vehicles, etc. and standards that are yet to be developed, for example for RPAS (drones). We provide our customers with a risk assessment and functional safety analysis service based on these standards.

We have recently assessed the safety of the pilot training simulator for the AIRBUS EC135 helicopter, developed by INDRA. The DLIB project is also worth a special mention, with ALTER TECHNOLOGY leading the development project for the discharge loop interlock box, one of the interlock control system's safety components which protects the superconductors associated with the ITER magnets. These magnets confine the plasma that is the fuel for the nuclear fusion reaction.