Creating Safer Skies: How skyguide Uses the Squish GUI Tester to Improve Safety and Efficiency of the Swiss Airspace

Creating Safer Skies: How skyguide Uses the Squish GUI Tester to Improve Safety and Efficiency of the Swiss Airspace
Air Traffic Control Setup

Skyguide, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is a company with a longstanding history of contribution to the development of Swiss aviation. Today, skyguide provides air navigation services for Switzerland and its adjacent countries to ensure safety of civil and military air navigation through management and monitoring of the Swiss airspace. Providing safe, reliable and efficient air navigation, skyguide manages a record of guiding over 1.2 million flights a year through Europe’s most complex airspace.

„What’s really key for us, having to do end-to-end integration testing and not normally having access to all the source code, is a tool like Squish that can talk to an application on Linux and one on Windows…it provides exactly what we need.”

We sat down with Mr. Duncan Fletcher and Mr. Geoffroy Carlotti, two Test Automation Engineers at skyguide, to learn about their company’s longstanding history of using Squish to test a diverse set of applications. Engineers at skyguide follow a Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) paradigm for their automation efforts. That is, a methodology that centers around stories written in a common language that describe the expected behavior of an application, allowing technical and non-technical users to participate in the authoring of feature descriptions, and therefore tests. The engineers we spoke to are responsible for foundationally defining this BDD framework for other teams within the company, thereby allowing technical and business people to participate in test automation.

„The fact that we’ve reduced the needed framework down to one tool is one reason we chose Squish.”

Engineers at skyguide are no strangers to advanced automation techniques using Squish. In one application they test, described Fletcher and Carlotti, they use a multi-pronged approach of combining localized OCR with localized image search and Windows object recognition. This application, written in C++ and running on Windows, is essentially the flight radar system displayed in front of air traffic controllers. An important detail of this radar system is the algorithm by which a flight shows onscreen. As Mr. Carlotti noted, there are hundreds of rules to take into account to display a flight properly on a radar screen. Even the color of the flight data follows certain rules to avoid drawing attention away from the air traffic controller looking at the screen. One benefit brought by Squish was that the process to test this application became streamlined via automation. “It’s impossible to test all these cases manually, so this is huge,” reported Mr. Carlotti. The engineers noted that, in general, the applications tested within the company are highly diverse, which in turn, made Squish standout to them for its ability to test such a varying set of applications within one framework. 

“Another huge benefit is that [with BDD] there is living documentation.”

Both technical and non-technical project stakeholders benefit from the BDD approach set up by the engineers at skyguide. At a fundamental level, Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Carlotti are developing the BDD framework to be available to both testers and those who write requirements. In this way, each person in the team can view the test results, understand them and react accordingly. A forward looking goal for these engineers is to involve more end-users and business people to interact with the BDD scenarios. That is, approach GUI testing in a way that is holistic in its setup and comprehensive in its involvement of all sides of the business. Mr. Fletcher noted that, while the team still does a good portion of manual tests, skyguide focuses increasingly on automation. As a summary to our insightful meeting, Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Carlotti noted an excellent level of customer support from our technical team, and that the two greatly looked forward to the next major release of Squish, version 6.5.

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