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RTCA DO-160 Testing Standard: Everything You Need To Know

There should be a compliance testing certification present when a rugged server or workstation is present. 

Rugged servers are required to have an internal lab or compliance laboratory certify them as compliant in order to endure and perform as intended in extreme situations that would damage most computers, such as the desert, a submarine, or, in the case of DO-160, in or on an aircraft. 

Military and commercial testing standards such as DO-160 are frequently used to ruggedize and stress-test servers for usage in difficult locations. The purpose of the DO-160 tests is to evaluate robust computers that are intended to be used in or on supersonic transports, jumbo jets, helicopters, and general aviation aircraft. 

With a robust server or workstation that has earned the DO-160 certification, you and your team can concentrate on what really matters by running your application while in the air without having to worry about breaking or malfunctioning parts. 

What is DO-160 testing? 

DO-160 is a live document that contains environmental testing requirements for aircraft. The official title of the document is Environmental Conditions and Airborne Equipment Test Procedures. The RTCA, or Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, is responsible for maintaining and disseminating DO-160. 

Since its first publication in 1975, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have embraced DO-160, despite the fact that it is not a government standard or rule. 

According to an advisory circular (AC) published by the FAA in June 2011, RTCA / DO-160 has been used as an environmental testing standard for airborne equipment since 1958, when it was known as DO-130. 

Released in December 2010, the most recent version of DO-160, known as DO-160G, has modifications pertaining to test circumstances, power input, and radio frequency susceptibility, among other aspects. Equipment used in or on airplanes is not required to undergo DO-160 environmental testing. It’s only a standard, but in order to create an industry-wide agreement on the caliber and dependability of aviation equipment, many equipment vendors, airlines, and compliance testing institutions have accepted it in addition to government agencies. 

Which tests are under DO-160’s purview? 

23 test standards are included in DO-160: 

  • Standard 4- Temperature and Altitude 
  • Standard 5-Temperature Variation 
  • Standard 6- Humidity 
  • Standard 7- Operational Shocks and Crash Safety 
  • Standard 8- Vibration 
  • Standard 9- Explosive Atmosphere 
  • Standard 10- Waterproofness 
  • Standard 11- Fluids Susceptibility 
  • Standard 12- Sand and Dust 
  • Standard 13-Fungus Resistance 
  • Standard 14- Salt Fog 
  • Standard 15- Magnetic Effect 
  • Standard 16- Power Input 
  • Standard 17- Voltage Spike 
  • Standard 18- Audio Frequency Conducted Susceptibility – Power Inputs 
  • Standard 19-Induced Signal Susceptibility 
  • Standard 20&21- Radio Frequency Susceptibility 
  • Standard 20&21- Radio Frequency Susceptibility (Radiated and Conducted) 
  • Standard 20&21- Emission of Radio Frequency Energy 
  • Standard 22&23- Lightning-Induced Transient Susceptibility 
  • Standard 22&23- Lightning Direct Effects 
  • Standard 24- Icing 
  • Standard 25- Electrostatic Discharge 
  • Standard 26- Fire and Flammability 


Every portion of DO-160 is customized for each customer and specifically designed to fit the equipment or rugged computing system’s intended environment.  

eInfochips has worked with the world’s top 10 commercial aircraft corporations. One of the eInfochips client wanted to build an Electric Motor Control Unit (EMCU) for a leading aircraft program. Read here how eInfochips provided a solution within a limited time window. 

Let’s discuss some of the test procedures mentioned above: 

Section 4 – Temperature & Altitude 

Assessing equipment’s performance qualities under severe hot or cold conditions and at various altitudes is the goal of DO-160 temperature and altitude testing. There are twenty categories in this technique that cover the whole spectrum of situations that are known to exist in the majority of aircraft types and installation sites. 

Equipment is tested by placing it in an environmental testing room, observing its effects, and documenting the results to determine if it passed or failed. 

Section 5 – Temperature Variation 

The goal of the DO-160 temperature fluctuation test is to evaluate how well aircraft equipment performs in the event of abrupt, severe temperature variations. Five categories in this process deal with the rate of temperature change for equipment mounted in or on aircraft. 

Similar to DO-160 Section 4, testing is carried out by putting the apparatus in an environmental testing room, keeping an eye on how the apparatus is affected, and documenting the results to decide if the apparatus passes or fails. 

Section 6 – Humidity 

This test is crucial because it examines how the equipment responds to variations in humidity. Humidity is a material’s gradual poison and an enemy to machinery. Three kinds of DO-160 equipment testing are conducted. 

  • Standard Humid Environment 
  • Severe Humid Environment 
  • External Humid Environment 

Additionally, it says that this test shouldn’t be conducted before tests four and five (the order of the testing apparatus). 

To Qualify: Equipment must be designed so that any vapor formation is prevented or, if it does occur, does not interfere with the equipment’s essential components. Additionally, The most important thing to do is protect the pieces with a protective covering. 

When designing anything that can withstand high temperatures, protective coatings, painting, and other protective treatment processes must be considered. 

The surface finish of coatings is important for vapor deposition, and it also affects the surfaces of moving components and boxes. 

Section 7 – Operational Shocks & Crash Safety 

  • The goal of DO-160 shock testing is to confirm that equipment subjected to shocks during routine aircraft operations will continue to operate within specified performance criteria. 
  • A crash safety test is another feature of DO-160 Section 7, which makes sure that certain equipment won’t come loose from its mountings or become dangerous during an emergency landing.
  • DO-160 Section 7 has four categories for equipment testing: Standard Operational Shocks (Category A), Low-Frequency Operational Shock (Category D), and Standard Operational Shock and Crash Safety (Category B).
  • An accelerometer is used to measure and regulate shock pulses when an apparatus is strapped to a shock table for testing. 

Section 8 – Vibration 

When subjected to vibration levels unique to the installation, DO-160 vibration testing uses a battery of tests to prove that airborne equipment meets durability criteria and performance standards. 

The following three tests are related to DO-160 vibration testing, and each has one or more categories: Three types of vibration tests are available: Standard (Category S), Robust (Categories R, U, and U2), and High-Level, Short-Duration (Categories H, Z). 

For fixed-wing aircraft, the Standard Vibration Test (Category S) is used. Its goal is to ascertain if, in the usual vibration environment experienced during routine aircraft operation, the equipment will work as required. 

The purpose of the Robust Vibration Test (Categories R, U, and U2) is to determine if the equipment can withstand vibration exposure and continue to function even after being exposed to endurance vibration levels. 

The Robust Vibration Test is defined by DO-160 as a combined evaluation used to monitor the structural integrity and operational performance of the equipment. 

The Robust Vibration Test encompasses testing protocols for equipment installed in helicopters and is best suited for equipment subjected to prolonged vibration exposure. 

The High-Level, Short-Duration Vibration Test should be used on equipment where a loss of function might potentially have a harmful impact on the aircraft’s performance. It is designed to test vibration conditions that arise after an engine fan blade failure. 

Section 10 – Waterproofness 

The purpose of these tests is to ensure that the test object will function properly in settings when water is pouring or spraying. The equipment’s ability to withstand liquid entry is determined by the RTCA DO-160 waterproofness test standard. This entrance of liquid can happen in a few distinct ways. The most noticeable is the mist of water. Condensation and dripping liquid are two other types of entry. 

Four main kinds of equipment are specified in the DO-160 Section 10 test standard. 

Category Y 

Equipment placed where it will come into contact with condensing water during routine airplane operations. 

Category W 

Equipment placed in areas where it will occasionally be exposed to falling water during routine aircraft operations (usually as a consequence of condensation). 

Category R 

Equipment placed where it may be sprayed with water from all directions or exposed to a driving rainstorm. 

Category S 

Equipment placed in places where it could be exposed to the forces of a strong stream of liquid, such as in the cleaning, washing, or deicing of aircraft. 

Section 11 – Fluids Susceptibility 

These tests establish if the equipment’s building components are resistant to the harmful impacts of fluid pollutants.  

Testing for fluid susceptibility should only be done if the equipment will be put in locations where fluid contamination is likely to occur.  

The fluids are typical of the types of fluids that are often utilized in both ground and aerial operations. 


The extensive variety of environmental conditions and testing covered by the DO-160 standard enables the detection of any flaws in electronic equipment and their timely correction prior to onboard usage. 

Because it is widely used in the aviation sector and has worldwide recognition, electronic equipment that complies with this standard is frequently accepted more readily by certifying authorities and consumers. 

eInfochips provides test engineering services for both software and hardware. We work with our clients throughout the whole process, from test planning (PSAC), test case generation, and test execution to certification utilizing Run For Score (RFS) test execution and SOI audit support capacity. We provide test engineering services for Environmental Test Procedures and EMI Test Procedure document development, RTCA DO-160F, DO-160G, and MIL-Standards. The engineering services provided by eInfochips comply with ARP4754, DO-178B/C, DO-160, and DO-254. 

To know more about our key offerings and services, you can contact our team of experts. 

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