March 20, 2024

Why Air Taxis Need Safe and Secure Coding Standards

Coding Standards

No longer a far-off dream found only in science fiction, flying vehicles are taking off alongside the advancement of drones and other aircraft. Soon, we hope to see the regular development of personal flying cars and services like electric air taxis. But, while the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market is poised for immense growth in the next decade, vehicles zipping about through the air raise obvious safety and security concerns. 

Here we discuss the future of flying vehicles and why safe and secure coding standards should be a priority early in their development. 

Read along or jump ahead to the section that interests you most: 

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What Is Urban Air Mobility (UAM)?

Urban Air Mobility (UAM), or the use of flying vehicles such as Personal Air Vehicles (PAV) and small, Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (EVTOL) vehicles like air taxis, intends to make airspace available for urban transportation.

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New Developments in Urban Air Mobility and Air Taxis 

Among exciting preparations for the upcoming Summer Olympics 2024 in Paris, France, it was hoped to introduce UAM to the City of Lights and carry passengers to and from events in EVTOL aircraft. 

These EVTOLs were intended to be the first flying taxi service in Europe, according to the BBC. Sadly, in an update from Politico, it appears that they will not be ready in time for this year's Olympic Games, largely due to the time it takes to get regulatory approval. 

Once approved, the benefits of EVTOL aircraft are many: they are quiet, cheap, emission-free and alleviate traffic congestion on the ground as they can easily land in prime locations of cities. 

However, there are challenges to address, including noise-level regulations, traffic control, battery-charge duration, and expense. To operate commercial flights in Europe, flying vehicle companies will first need to get a certification for their EVTOLs from the European Aerospace Regulator (EASA). For the air taxis that were intended for the Olympics, EU-level approval may be delayed for at least another year. 

Both the automotive industry and the aerospace industry are heavily regulated, with strict safety and security requirements. Developers working on connected electric vehicles with the capability of flight will need to ensure all these requirements are met early in the development process, if they are to get flying cars off the ground. 

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Why Industry Safety Standards Are Important for Air Taxis 

Other industries, in particular automotive and aerospace, already have functional safety standards, and both airborne and ground vehicles need to comply with them. Applying rigorous standards throughout the software development process and beyond will help ensure the reliable, safe performance of the entire embedded flying vehicle system and bring UAM closer to everyday reality. 


DO-178C, "Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification," covers all aspects of development, from planning to verification. It classifies five safety levels that are designated based on risk to ensure safety in the air. 

ISO 26262

ISO 26262, "Road Vehicles — Functional Safety," is a risk-based safety standard that ensures the safety of electric and electronic systems in vehicles throughout their lifetime. 

Compliance with both of these functional safety standards benefits by the use of coding guidelines, which will assist software developers in detecting critical and undefined vulnerabilities in their code. Applying coding guidelines such as MISRA® and AUTOSAR make it easier for developers to verify their code against the functional safety standards.

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Why Security Standards Are Important for Air Taxis

There is also the need for compliance with functional security standards for flying vehicles, particularly as they are so reliant on communication with the outside world. Both of the following standards guide developers in preventing security vulnerabilities, including deriving a threat analysis risk assessment. 


DO-326A, "Airworthiness Security Process Specification," is the main industry standard for aviation cybersecurity in the U.S. and represents the European compliance requirements for aircraft. Developers can apply DO-326A to EVTOLs by demonstrating that they have protection measures in place for the entire aircraft if, for example, a malicious actor tries to hack the navigation system. 

ISO 21434

ISO 21434, "Road Vehicles — Cybersecurity Engineering,” is an automotive standard that focuses on the cybersecurity risk in road vehicle electronic systems. This standard encourages the adoption of a security culture across the organization, so that security is considered in every development decision. 

In addition, ISO 21434 recommends the use of a secure coding standard. MISRA again is an example, and there is the addition of CERT. Developers should also continuously monitor lists of software security weaknesses in software and hardware, for example those detailed in the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)

Further Reading: "Flying Vehicles Need Secure Coding Standards if They Are to Take to the Skies," EE Times Europe
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How to Ensure the Safety and Security of Air Taxis with Static Analysis

UAM and its use of flying taxis like EVTOLs is still in our future. Thanks to regulations, we know flying vehicles will be as safe and secure as possible. 

Static analysis is the best way to enforce safety and secure coding standards for flying vehicles. 

Static analysis tools help automate code reviews by checking for critical standard rule violations and security vulnerabilities. Perforce’s Helix QAC and Klocwork accelerate development and ensure that your code is high quality and meets regulatory compliance. Each tool includes fully documented rule enforcement and compliance reports for safety and security audits. 

See for yourself how Helix QAC and Klocwork can get your project off the ground faster. Sign up for your free 7-day trial. 

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