NASA Collaborative Advances Aircraft Safety

Dashlink lets developers of integrated vehicle health management technology share code and test applications in real time.

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An online community developed by NASA researchers is helping to foster collaborative research and development for teams that build technology for aircraft systems.

Created first in 2008 by a group of NASA scientists, the site -- called Dashlink -- has picked up considerable momentum and is currently being used by researchers and developers of integrated vehicle health management (IVHM) technology, according to NASA.

IVHM technologies include software and sensors to monitor the health of systems that enable an aircraft to fly, so problems can be identified before they get too serious.

Dashlink – the "Dash" of which stands for "Discovery in Aeronautics Systems Health" -- has more than 410 registered users that draw on the site to share code they're written, test each other's work, and discuss the results, according to NASA.

Software developed for IVHM must have the ability to instantly record and analyze variables such as temperature, pressures, stresses, and cockpit switch positions and come up with accurate readings.

This type of development involves the creation of new algorithms, which developers on the site are sharing. As of last month, 16 were posted to the site, along with 10 different datasets available for researchers and developers to study, according to NASA.

People both inside and outside of NASA are among Dashlink's users. Those not working for the space agency can sign up for the site if sponsored by a NASA civil servant.

Among federal agencies, NASA has been at the forefront of implementing technology -- particularly the Web -- to aid its transparency and engagement efforts both with the public and inside the agency.

The agency's chief technologist, Bobby Braun, said in a press conference this week that he wants the agency to become a leader in technology R&D.

Already, another organization in the agency is eyeing Dashlink as inspiration for its own collaborative website, according to NASA. The earth sciences division is planning a similar website, and is already working with some Dashlink programmers to create a platform on which both sites can operate by sharing the same code base and feature set.