Future generations of jet aircraft might use short-range wireless technology to connect cockpit controls to ailerons, elevators or rudders. Flight International reports that the new fly-by-wireless concept will soon be trialled by biz-jet maker Gulfstream, using an unspecified radio technology to control a spoiler on a company …
Suddenly all those mobile phones they're letting onto plans *will* be a threat.
no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO!
Please, stick to having things WIRED UP in planes.
You KNOW it makes sense.
Flight Data Recorder - audio analysis
"Ladies and genlemen, this is your Captain speaking. Is there an IT guy onboard? We appear to be having a little problem with our wi-fi here..."
(recording continues but all further conversation obliterated by continual screaming of passengers)
As a backup
this makes sense. The problem is going to be figuring out whether the Wireless or Wired/fibered links have priority.
Give the fibre links priority and lots of random flashes as the split end flails in the open air could cause even more problems- or at least tie up the controls while the actuator figures out that its just noise it's reacting to.
Give Wireless the priority and you'd run the risk of laptop-armed Terrorists taking over a plane with Excel and a well-crafted VBA script.
Still, overall a good idea if properly executed. Thumbs up!
So you trust low power, flaky, unencrypted GPS signals to guide the aircraft accross oceans and direct it's landing but not short range encrypted/checksummed/validated radio signals inside the plane?
There are lots of high reliability protocols used in radio controls for cranes, mining machine tools etc.
All your planes are belong to us!
@As a backup
Correct, as a backup it's a great idea, cut fibre isn't going to be an issue, because each command sent should really be signed/checksummed anyway, so any noise won't checksum properly. Backups should be as diverse/different from primary links as possible - No good having a diverse system that is susceptible in the same way as the primary, especially true for flight computers, no good having two/three identical systems, as a bug in one, will be in the others as well. Same thing on a physical level, no good having a 2nd set of cables, because they would be susceptible to the same problems as the primary i.e. being cut.
I wouldn't trust it, but in the case of an emergency, you have no choice..
The issue is using something to attempt to gain control after the power linkage has been cut.
Back in the day, this would mean you lost pressure in your hydraulics.
Today that means loss in your "wire". Tomorrow, optical fiber.
The interesting thing is that you can build redundancy in your optical links, but even in the event of a catastrophic failure, I doubt that wi-fi or its equivalent will help much.
As to the GPS signal, encrypted or unencrypted, you have the same issues regarding accuracy. GPS (Civilian) is accurate enough. Not flaky at all. But no, its not used to direct "the landing". (BTW, GPS is very accurate when used in farming. But there you have a base station.)
I think that its interesting that they would try a short haul wireless concept. Definitely not my first choice of a back up.
Tux because you know the network routers *will* use a flavor of Linux. ;-)
If done right...
If done right this makes a lot of sense in the same way that remote office sites sometimes have wired network connections and a wireless solution in place as a backup in case a cable gets cut.
As planes now use fly by wire technology the opportunity exists to migrate the analogue controls to digital data packets which can be correctly checksummed and routed around redundant paths in the same way that routed networks can. In this scenario you can have a correctly authenticated encrypted channel from the cockpit to the control surfaces which can travel over the wireless links or through several redundant fiber runs in the fuselage. In this case a terrorist with a laptop and the correct hardware for the airplane's wireless communications (let's face it, nobody would be stupid enough to use 802.11n here) would be able to do little more than jam (or DoS) the signal which would have to be combined with a physical cut of the redundant cable paths to do any real damage.
un*******believably stupid idea...
fiber optics are pretty well shielded from external interference... I would have absolutely no faith in fly-by-wireless... and I speak as one with 22 years experience of avionics systems in the RAF...
Lets hope not Bluetooth
Searching for blutooth devices.....
Would you like to pair with Rudder, please enter passcode....
Lets hope they remember to set them as authorised! ;)
@ the oppressed mass
Cranes and mining tools generally speaking don't carry passengers. Plus the navigation can be backed up by radar and radio triangulation, not to mention the pilot and flight crew. Just as they used to do prior to GPS.
High reliability is one thing, I wonder just what level of redundancy they intend building into these systems. Would they be more expensive overall than wires? Would they be more reliable than wires?
If used as Gulfstream propose, I'd imagine that the'd have way more than 'loss of control' to contend with if they blew a rotor on one of the turbines. More like a loss of the majoriy of the tail section. Frankly, if they're worried about that, I'd say they had an engine reliability issue foremost, and I'd be concentrating on that instead!
Not primay use...
For all you whiners moaning on and on, re-read this part
Henne and Gulfstream are looking at a wireless system as an emergency mode which could cope with such as situation, rather than as the primary link - "at least in the near term", according to Flight.
Great idea - use it as primary
Because I can't remember the last time I saw someone getting on/off a Gulfstream that didn't need to die in a plane crash.
It's progress, that's all.
This is what ground based engineering has been doing for the last 15 years.
SCADA and PLC automated system controls use a system-wide network for sensors and control signals. Some are even Ethernet compliant.
This offers many benefits over hub-spoke wired systems. Using a wireless bridge across possible failure points is good engineering.
This is quite far-sighted for the usually conservative aviation sector.
Re:trust low power, flaky, unencrypted GPS signals
No, I don't trust them to fly the plane. I trust them to tell a human pilot where to fly the plane. I also trust all the land-based radar tracking stations to report on the plane's position, thereby ensuring that the low-power signals are indeed leading the pilot on the right course.
As for fiber security, obviously if you run the wires and fiber through the same path, cutting one will cut the other, duh. In a plane there are 4 cardinal points. I expect one technology to be routed through one point, and the other tech to be routed on the opposite side - but I'm no expert in avionics.
I guess WiFi might just be acceptable as a backup, but only if there is no electrical interference in the surrounding atmosphere. If your engine has blown up violently enough to shred the fuselage, you're a goner anyway, so I don't believe that WiFi would help in that situation. Again, I'm no expert in avionics, so maybe it is a good idea.
If you can't hack it with Excel and a VBA script, that is.
what could *possibly* go wrong?
Missing the point
A lot of you seem to miss the point that this is intended as a backup system, which by all means is a bloody brilliant idea!
It could be the difference between a damaged plane going down taking everyone with it, or a damaged plane still able to maintain some landing control thanks to the wireless backup.
1. People, on average, aren't as stupid as is frequently imagined by some Reg readers.
2. This will not reach production until it is thoroughly tested.
3. For those who can't accept any argument unless it is accompanied by a negative 'people and corporations are governed purely by self-interest' there is the 'truth' that they will not want to jeopardise their profits by risking having a large number of aircraft falling out of the sky.
But the pilot still has AFD, VOR, PAPIs, and the good old Mk.1 Eyeball if GPS goes down. In the event of no navaids in the area, he can always rely on taking a compass bearing from the last known position to get close to an alternate airstrip.
"and I speak as one with 22 years experience of avionics systems in the RAF"
Biplanes had fiber optics?
Nice to hear from the old guard. The changes you must have seen!
Not primary use YET...
"... at least in the near term" - that's the scary part. As a backup - no problem because it is better than fly-by-cut-wire.
But as a primary control - no way. It is too easy to ruin the signal. Solar flares, really dim hackers, politicians with wireless network blockers, electronics-frying bombs, directional wifi disruptors, and lots of other potential problems.
Actually, thinking about it, maybe it would be a good idea to test the prototype on Air Force One, depending on who wins the upcoming erection...
Paris because of the (probably intentional) spelling mistake...
Because of solar scintillation, I doubt wireless will ever be used as a primary means of flight control. However as a backup means, it does make sense for controls which are already electronically controlled using servos etc.
Wouldn't do much for systems using pneumatic or hydraulic means. Since a cut in those systems lines would mean a loss of the medium itself.
Just how many aircraft are built with electronic servos actually moving the flight surfaces? I believe right now, most are still assisted via hydraulics.
Did anyone read the article??
Its going to be used as a BACKUP.
Sound like the next Die Hard Movie.... Bad guys cuts the hard control and takes over the plane by their iPhone...
Hey Mum! Look what I can do with my Ninentdo DS......
I assume you mean with duty-free souvenir nail-clippers that you can still get airside...
Really bad idea. Depending on your intentions, you don't even need to control the plane once the primary (for the moment) control-method is disconnected if you're quite happy to simply disrupt the relevant bandwidth resulting effectively in a pilotless plane...
22 years in RAF...
Tornados and Eurofighter...
Go for it I say.
Do you think they will use publicly available wifi frequencies?
Make it the primary control and get rid of the wires and hydraulics.
Less wires = less weight
Less weight = less fuel used
Less fuel used = prices do not go up as fast.
All you need...
In-Flight Entertainment System
Nasty person: "I have control"
Captain: "You now have control"
Backup, and could save lives...
If only these flights could have had a "backup" system like the one proposed:
That's nearly 1000 deaths that would probably have been prevented if there had been an alternative means to control the control surfaces and engines than a "hard link".
Hmmm, so with the right prefixed code we could use our console to order the plane to lower it's shields.. erm flaps?
Personally I wouldn't trust a plane where there wasn't a thick steel cable going from the stick to the flaps as either a backup or primary.
The near future - a plane in trouble in a thunderstorm.
"We've lost controls! Hang on, the Wireless backup has taken over, we're saved! No we aren't! Yes we are! No we aren't..............."
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