A Canadian firm has announced imminent flight tests of aviation data-streaming technology which would transmit information normally recorded in an aircraft's "black box" accident recorders "in real time". In cases such as that of the recent disappearance of Air France flight 447 above the Atlantic, there would be no need to …
A few years behind?
I watched a documentary on Discovery about 8 years ago which was all about how in Europe we use this 'Real Time Transmission' kit, the same as the US Airforce use, but in the US they refuse to upgrade the commercial airlines due to cost. How come it's taken 8 years for somebody to see that black boxes are stupid??
Doesn't sound much different from motorsport telemetry with different radio gear attached. Innovative? Patentable? I'd imagine Marelli and McLaren Electronics would have something to say about prior art...
And so what's new?
ACARS already does this for the aircraft.
RollsRoyce engines transmit an awful lot more, especially those on lease deals.
Is this going to transmit all the cockpit voice? Are all the airlines going to renegotiate their pilot contracts to agree to everything they say in the cockpit being recorded by their managers and available to lawyers?
How is the flight data going to be secured? In the event of a crash by an AirCheapo flight which suggests dodgy maintenance - the only copy of the flight data is sitting on a server owned by AirCheapo! Or is all this data going to streamed to secured servers run by the accident investigation board in each country - how much is that going to cost?
'the AFIRS 220 can already be set up to transmit regular "short burst" data updates to ground-based web servers'
Impressive. Does it pick a web server at random? I haven't noticed any airliner data on mine.
Too late for AF447
Quite why it's taken so long for this to come about is anyone's guess. I thought about it ages ago and I've never been mistaken as the sharpest tool in the box!
On-Star for planes!
Can they ask for directions if they get lost? Do they have to worry about running into deer at 10,000ft?
As someone who is heavily involved with flight recorders in my job, there is no way that something with the potential to be unreliable such as this, would ever replace the flight recorder on the aircraft. Voice recordings will never be allowed to be transmitted due to the pilot unions who put up a stink about everything. Current voice recorders are only allowed because they have an erase button that can be used after a flight.
@Too late for AF447
It's not worth it because crashes are so very rare. There is about 1crash/decade for airlines you would fly with.
Most crashes are pilot error on take/off landing, accidents in the middle of nowhere that aren't bombs or over enthusiastic superpower air defence are very very rare.
The most useful data for an accident investigation is normally cockpit voice.
The reason the CVR only records the last 30mins is the same reason that pilots are supposed to be serious below 10,000 ft on take off/landing. It would make flying much more dangerous if the flight deck was continually recorded.
Imagine flying a plane for 8hours where the most important thing in your mind is that anything you say will be taken down and can be used against you by your bosses, your country's police, the HR department or the lawyers for a hostie wanting a $million sexual harassment suit payoff.
Presumably you wouldn't fly Air France, then? (For the record, I'm perfectly happy to do so.)
AF4590 - SST - Paris - 25/07/2000
AF358 - 340 - Toronto - 02/08/2005
AF447 - 330 - ITCZ - 01/06/2009
(plus a 74F in Madras in 1999).
and yet a cell phone call will crash the plane? hello!?! I think not
Emergency detection algorithm ?
I bet Airbus would love to get their hands on that algorithm, just stick it into the flight computer and implement an exception handler. Sweet !
Flight recorder - copious data collection for 30 minutes leading up to a crash. Difficult to recover, difficult to modify.
Real-time streaming - copious data collection (for every significant event when our algorithm says that we are up the creek, otherwise at least some of the usually important stuff). Easy to recover, easier to hack, easier to lose, easier to redact
The only thing that I have learned about finding causes of unexpected problems (we call it debugging round here) is that you must be able to trust that the data you are analysing is complete and comprehensive. If you have the slightest doubt about either you cannot honestly give a definitive answer.
Whilst the article says it is capable of carrying a voice channel, it does clearly say its data-streaming, as opposed to voice streaming (yes I know voice can be data). data as in flight data recorder.
I would imagine that the black boxes will continue to stay on board and this tech would be an add-on
Where did anyone say anything about patents ANYWHERE, much less patents on the idea of data streaming? The only thing that was quoted from the company was about proprietary data compression, not PATENTED data compression.
You might want to move your chair out from under your desk if your knee is jerking.
"Doesn't sound much different from motorsport telemetry with different radio gear attached."
Typically the Formula-One racetracks are less than a thousand miles from one end to the other, and do not include any traverses over oceans or trackless mountain ranges.
(Paris, because she's also less than a thousand miles from end to end.)
A cheaper approach?
Won't an airliner at cruising altitude almost always be line-of-(radio)-sight to some other aircraft?
If that's the case why not establish a much simpler pane-to-plane radio communications channel and take copies of each others' data until their flight-paths diverge, by which time some other plane will have taken over?
All automatic, no extra work, no-one ever looks at the other-plane data and it gets overwritten every month or so. If necessary for privacy or company confidentiality, it's encrypted with a source-airline key. If a plane goes down, the request goes out to all aircraft that were in the area at the time, to retrieve what may be the critical black box data backup.
Well, almost one per decade
The Toronto flight wasn't really a crash, just very bad parking.
(At least by Toronto standards, in Montreal it would be considered normal driving ) !
I thought they must already be doing this
When that flight went down between Brazil and France, the new reports said they had received some indications of unusual readings moments before the crash... I thought that meant they already had live streaming...
A streaming system like this at best gives a few clues as to what might have happened, and at worst tells you only that the radio failed.
The black boxes still have a purpose.... it would be foolish to assume that the live stream is complete up to the point of catastrophic failure. Problems with radio communications are not exactly without precedent, so the black boxes will still be the source of the most complete picture of what happened and will still need to be recovered and analyzed.
"Do they have to worry about running into deer at 10,000ft?"
Only on Christmas Eve...