From Aeris Communications - Black Boxes and the Cloud: Faster Data for Safer Flights

Sep 6, 2017

Written by Carmi Brandis from Aeris Communications

Current black box technology has stood the test of time and still continues to give flight accident investigators a clear idea of the last hours of any flight gone wrong. But two major flaws in the system haunt the airline industry. First, on-board recorders only store two hours of data at a time before they are rewritten entirely. Second, many accidents investigations have failed to find the black box until months or years later. For instance, after the crash of Air France Flight 447, it famously took investigators two yearsto find and recover the data recorders. In other cases, such as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the black box may never be recovered. An unsolved accident can mean that potentially repeatable mechanical failures go unaddressed, placing future passengers in danger, and risking the loss of multi-million dollar aircrafts. In addition to the loss of the aircraft itself, settlements in the U.S. average about $4.5 million per case and can threaten an airline’s reputation. The Internet of Things (IoT) offers a promising solution with the potential to greatly reduce in-flight accidents or, at least, provide more valuable post-accident data.

How IoT Black Boxes Improve Troubleshooting

Linking flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders – more commonly called black boxes – to the cloud through a linked cellular network can give ground support immediate access to a multitude of flight data. Time, airspeed, the plane’s direction, wing-flap movements, and fuel data are just a few of the items that can be monitored by the flight data recorder, and each of these data points has the potential to save lives.

Reviewing flight data in real time can allow ground support to provide faster recommendations and assistance to crews when things go wrong. Although an airplane would need to be somewhat close to its destination to link with the airport’s network, launch and landing are often the most dangerous phases of a flight. And when planes are far away from an airport, data still can be transmitted using satellite via antenna relay and on-board Wi-Fi streaming to the cloud.

Recovering Black Box Data with IoT

Ultimately, streaming flight data to cloud storage means never again worrying about a lost black box. Although black boxes are set up to ping search parties for up to thirty days after a crash, remote crash sites or unfavorable conditions can prevent teams from getting to the device in time.

Cloud storage creates an instant and permanent record of all in-flight activity and that means the entire flight can be recorded rather than just the last two hours. When a crash does take place, flight data in the cloud would allow airline and aircraft manufacturers to get a head start on diagnosing other planes in a fleet for similar issues.

IoT-linked black boxes enhance airline security as well, making it easier for airlines to monitor what is being said in the cockpit at any given time. Airline monitoring has the potential to identify hijackings or other security breaches early on, giving the airline enough time to notify passengers, stewards, and the appropriate authorities. Widespread adoption of IoT cellular networks even could mean that each airport along a plane’s route receives a data downlink as the flight passes over, briefly connecting to the airport’s network, thereby tracking and recording the entire route of an airborne aircraft.

Is your airport ready to adopt an IoT cellular network and discover how to connect your black boxes to the cloud? Contact Aeris to learn how to set up customized networks that meet your flight needs.


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