Adventium Labs Applies Game Theory to Reduce the Cost of Aircraft Design

Adventium Labs is combining technologies it developed with funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) to provide new capabilities for least commitment design of complex systems like aircraft and spacecraft. 

“Least commitment is a strategy from game theory that keeps options open as long as possible,” says Adventium Labs’ Chief Engineer Todd Carpenter. “When applied to system design, a least commitment approach allows you to avoid making premature design decisions that you later have to retract, reducing or eliminating re-work costs. This new capability, called CAFFMAD, will help developers make design decisions only when necessary by automatically and continuously evaluating design alternatives throughout the development process.”

Least commitment design can be hard to grasp at first glance. Tyler Smith, an Adventium engineer working on CAFFMAD, explains it using a familiar experience. “Did you ever read those ‘choose your own adventure’ books? If you were like me, you hated committing to a path. When I got the option to go left or right, I flipped to the ‘left’ page and kept a finger there before reading what happened when I turned ‘right’. If I found out turning right led to monsters, I could switch to left without searching through the book. Least commitment design works like that, except in our case CAFFMAD keeps potentially thousands of design options open so you can switch between them easily after you’ve analyzed the options.” The figure below shows an example design space for a simple CubeSat, a type of small satellite.

By using a least commitment approach, CAFFMAD helps the developer identify situations where new design decisions violate requirements or previously discarded solutions become feasible. It combines Army-funded continuous virtual integration technology that enables automated analysis of Architecture Analysis and Design Language (AADL) models with NASA-funded trade space analysis technology that uses an AADL model to systematically explore design alternatives. AADL is an international standard language used to model the combination of software and hardware that comprise today’s complex systems. Continuous integration has been used for years in the software community, but only recently has it been applied to the design of complex systems.

CAFFMAD will allow continuous least commitment design as system models are updated and refined using analyses conducted with multiple tools, tool environments, and modeling languages, including System Modeling Language (SysML) in addition to AADL. A training course and materials are also being created. These capabilities will be available as upgrades to tools and infrastructure already available on Adventium’s Curated Access to Model-based Engineering Tools (CAMET) Library, an industry leading source of design and analysis tools for complex systems.