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Linux in Aerospace: Objections and Paths Forward

The Linux Foundation hosted the Embedded Open Source Summit, a new umbrella event for open source embedded projects and developer communities to come together under one roof for important collaboration and education, in Prague, Czech Republic, on June 27-30. More than 1,300 people registered for the conference – representing 375 organizations across 56 countries around the globe. 

The event hosted the Safety-Critical Software Summit, which was sponsored by the ELISA Project, that gathered safety experts and open source developers to enable and advance the use of open source in safety-critical applications. As part of the Summit, Peter Brink, Functional Safety Engineering Leader at Underwriter Laboratories (UL) and Steven H. VanderLeest, Chief Technologist for Boeing Linux at Boeing, gave a presentation titled, “Debating Linux in Aerospace: Objections and Paths Forward.”

Traditionally, safety-critical flight software used in aerospace is closed, proprietary code from a handful of commercial vendors. Although open-source software could provide several benefits, there are significant hurdles that prevent widespread adoption. First, we list some of the potential benefits of open source for safety-critical aerospace applications. Second, we present an overview of the key concepts and standards for flight software. Third, we identify the objections and concerns for using Linux as the avionics real-time operating system, which is software that generally needs the highest levels of assurance. For each objection, we suggest a possible path forward to address the concern.

Click here for the presentation slides. Click here to view the other videos from the Safety-Critical Software Summit.

Learn more about linux and aerospace by joining the ELISA Aerospace Working Group. For all upcoming ELISA Working Group meetings and public seminars, please go to

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