Edge Case Defense: Safety for Systems Empowering Warfighters
By Frank Fratrik and Michael Wagner
The United States Department of Defense is rapidly deploying advanced systems — often with high levels of autonomous control — to maintain an advantage over our adversaries. However, the growing complexity of these systems poses unique challenges for safety engineering.
Edge Case Defense (ECD) is here to help. We thrive at the intersection of complex systems and rigorous safety engineering. Our safety solutions are tailored to satisfy MIL-STD 882 requirements and can help your organization to meet or exceed its schedule and budget goals.
Growing DoD System Complexity, Autonomy, and Rate of Production
The DoD increasingly deploys sophisticated technologies to meet the challenges of modern warfare. Autonomous vehicle mobility is expanding across every operational domain. A more diverse set of payload capabilities use autonomous control authority. Artificial intelligence and machine learning bring incredible gains in performance and functionality.
All of these new technologies must meet the requirements of the MIL-STD-882 safety standard. Complying with this rigorous standard is a resource-intensive process that requires specialized safety knowledge and expertise. As systems grow more complicated, these safety engineering requirements become harder and harder to satisfy. This particularly applies to autonomy. Without the right expertise and tools, the risk of missed technical, schedule, and budget constraints grows exponentially. Often, these deficiencies aren’t recognized until late in the development process — multiplying the cost of correcting them.
At the same time, new features are being added to already-deployed systems at a faster and faster rate. Systems that used to receive software updates a few times a year are now transitioning to the continuous updates of the DevSecOps model. Program Offices look to implement Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment processes to more rapidly meet the needs of Warfighters. Systems that are still under development face pressure for more frequent and broader demonstrations. In some cases, they undergo an expedited acquisition process to speed up their deployment. Despite this pressure, MIL-STD 882 safety assessment and risk acceptance from each safety stakeholder remains a required gatekeeper for deploying these systems in the field.
Edge Case Defense Fulfills the Need for Verifiable System Safety
ECD’s team of expert safety engineers provides MIL-STD 882 lifecycle system safety engineering with a focus on successful Safety Assessment Reports. To help you build and maintain your safety story, we’ll draw upon our experience as Army safety assessors, Carnegie Mellon University safety researchers, and implementers of safety processes across multiple industries.
ECD’s broad safety expertise spans the entire range of MIL-STD 882 tasking. We are aided by safety case thinking to ensure that your Safety Assessment Report covers all needed aspects of this standard. Our system safety analysis and activities follow the three pillars of the ECD safety case:
Live It Right — Begin with a strong safety plan to create an organization’s safety culture and set the stage for a safe system lifecycle. Manage system safety deliberately.
Engineer It Right — Define the system, its CONOPs, and its use cases. Methodically identify hazards and causal factors. Apply mitigations throughout. Verify the implementation and effectiveness of these mitigations. Assess risks accurately and communicate effectively with stakeholders. Support informed decisions about deployment risks.
Operate It Right — Enable Warfighters to safely use these systems. Ensure that operators understand and follow operational safety constraints. Measure the effectiveness of safety mitigations and ensure that safety assumptions hold true.
This framework scales to systems with a wide range of sizes and capabilities. ECD’s expertise in software system safety and Level of Rigor provides guidance on compliance with the Joint Software System Safety Engineering handbook, the Joint Services — Software Safety Authorities Software System Safety Implementation Guide, AOP-52, and similar software-focused safety guidance. We’ve seen what right looks like and can help you build compliant evidence. We can also assist you to successfully navigate safety assessments by the US Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC), the Navy Weapon System Explosive Safety Review Board, the Joint Weapon Safety Review Board, and command safety offices throughout the DoD.
Edge Case Defense — A Trusted Source for Ensuring Safe Systems
Since 2014, ECD has been leading DoD program safety efforts, generating safety artifacts, and authoring Safety Assessment Reports. ECD’s safety efforts focus on Systems Engineering, System Architecture, Hardware Safety, Software Safety, Safety Verification and Validation, and Human Factors Safety. As a team, ECD has over 120 years of experience in assessing the safety of DoD systems and over 150 years of experience in executing system safety engineering.
This deep experience leads to safety efforts that are both effective and efficient. For example, by providing guidance on safety concepts, system architecture, and operational procedures, we significantly reduced the safety critical function count for a system prototype demonstration. We ensured that soldier demonstration goals were met while gaining ATEC Safety Release approval. The efficiency gain was estimated at a 60% cost reduction from the initial estimate of required safety resources.
ECD demonstrated its safety leadership as the safety lead for multiple complex robotic and autonomous systems, including some with weapons payloads. We’ve led efforts to generate safety language for use in Requests for Proposal and Statements of Work. We also have a growing trend of winning government bids with our safety engineering proposals.
ECD is a proven leader in the DoD safety and MIL-STD 882 space. We drew upon this experience as the primary authors of UL4600 — the first standard for assessing the safety of autonomous systems. With the release of UL4600 in 2020, we’re in an excellent position to build upon these organizing principles to ensure a complete safety effort and approved Safety Assessment Report for autonomous DoD systems and safety stakeholders.
Our approach is backed by over $15M in DoD research and development funding to progress our safety thinking into safety tools. To build these tools, ECD’s in-house safety engineering and software development experts draw upon lessons learned and technology from on-road and off-road commercial autonomous vehicle applications.
ECD is ready to plan, manage, execute, and deliver lifecycle system safety. We are here to ensure safety for your systems that empower Warfighters.
About Edge Case Research:
At Edge Case Research, we believe that complex systems should be built safely from the ground up. Founded in 2014 by leaders in autonomous vehicle safety, our expert team provides system and safety engineering services, nLoop Live Safety Case software, and risk management solutions. Our clients include software driver developers, automotive and trucking OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, insurance providers, and the aerospace and defense industries. For more information, visit ecr.ai or ecr-defense.ai.