Tag: boeing

Pentagon contemplates wearables in war

US Army - Wikimedia CommonsThe US Defense Secretary said today that the Pentagon is cooperating with Boeing, Apple, and other companies and organisations in a bid to apply wearable tech to war.

According to Reuters, the aims are to create leading edge sensors that can be worn by USAF personnel or built into the exastructure of a plane.

The report said the idea is to use next generation printing tech to make stretchable electronic devices tat can be worn by ground troops and naval personnel too.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the US government will pump $75 million into the plans over the next five years and commercial companies will throw in $90 million and other government authorities creating a honey pot of $171 million.

US universities will also work on the scheme with a hub based in San Jose.

The US government has already pumped money into futuristic 3D printing schemes.

Dreamliner software glitch solved by IT crowd

J5agZA poor bit of software coding means that Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner could see its engines shut down if it is left running for too long.

Fortunately the fix is as simple as turning the plane off and turning it on again which is the advice which comes from TV’s IT Crowd.

If the pilot leaves the plane switched on for 248 days, and the keys are in the ignition, a software glitch will put the plane into a failsafe mode.

We say failsafe, it is more of a euphemism for “bricked”. The plane will lose all of its power, the generator control units (GCUs) will shut off, leaving the plane without power and loss of control of the plane.

While this is a problem if the plane is on the ground, it is a megadisaster if the plane is flying. There are a lot of ifs which make the event unlikely.

“If the four main GCUs (associated with the engine mounted generators) were powered up at the same time, after 248 days of continuous power, all four GCUs will go into failsafe mode at the same time, resulting in a loss of all AC electrical power regardless of flight phase,” the directive warns.

Boeing is working on a software upgrade that will address the problems, the FAA says. Boeing found the problem during laboratory testing of the plane. The problem has only occurred in the lab and that all of the planes in service are turned off and on again as part of regular maintenance.

It is the latest problem to hit the plane, which is also said to be vulnerable to hacking attacks and to have seen difficulties with batteries catching fire. Such problems have seen the planes grounded, though they were returned to service shortly after.

Over 250 of the planes have been built, and they are used by companies all over the world.

Federal report to OK gadgets for flight takeoff, landing

federal advisory committee is preparing to tell the American Federal Aviation Administration that flights can handle switched-on gadgets at all stages, including takeoff and landing.

However, the suggestion will be limited to electronic kit that’s not connected to the web.

Passengers, if the move is given the go ahead, will be absolved of the burden of small talk or interaction with other passengers, as ebooks, music players and other devices will be allowed during takeoff and landings.

The report, commissioned by the FAA, will recommend testing transmission tolerance on older aircraft. Newer aircraft types are to be considered safe for electronic transmissions.
Industry officials believe the suggestions could get the green light as early as the end of this year.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which has talked to industry officials, aircraft types which can tolerate electronic transmissions are already in use, including craft fitted out with picocells for in flight phone calls. “If an aircraft already has a picocell, it’s already been evaluated to have electronic devices” for all phases of flight, one official told the WSJ.

The Airbus 330 300s and Boeing 747 400s are examples of such vehicles.

But the report will not recommend using mobile or wi-fi connections below 10,000 feet. Although it’s expected tablets and e-readers will be allowed for use during takeoffs and landings, larger laptops should be stowed away.

Amazon has one employee on the committee. In a statement, the company said the report is a “big win for customers”. 

NB- It’s just been announced Delta Airlines pilots will be given Windows Surface 2 tablets for their electronic flight bags, whether they want them or not. Pilots for Boeing 757 and 767 fleet will get the kit, with more to come in 2014. 

German VIP planes to get infrared countermeasures

US defence contractor Northrop Grumman has landed a rather interesting contract to equip a couple of civilian Airbus A319CJ aircraft with a top of the line infrared countermeasures system.

The $26 million contract should be finalised by March 2016 and then the specially modified “head of state” will enter German service, reports Motley Fool. Although Germany doesn’t exactly top the list of potential terrorist targets, it might be a good idea to have some countermeasures on board when Angela Merkel visits Athens and asks for her money back.

Northrop Grumman already won similar contracts to equip Boeings used by the leaders of Oman and Qatar, which should also come in quite handy when the people of these Gulf nations ask for their countries back. 

The AN/AAQ-24(V) is Northrop Grumman’s latest directional infrared countermeasures system. The company claims it can defeat any IR missile out there, although it is clear the threat comes from MANPADs in the wrong hands. It is capable of detecting and simultaneously jamming missiles in high clutter environments and it covers all current IR threat bands.

It is also available in laser based configurations, with added coolness.

Boeing groeing tough battery tests for Dreamliners

Boeing is desperately trying to get its 787 Dreamliner fleet back into the air and it is now testing the plane’s volatile Li-Ion battery system to a rigorous standard that it helped develop itself.

The strict new standard was never employed on the Dreamliner and in retrospect it might have been a good idea to run the tests before it was pressed into service.

The Dreamliner was the first commercial jet to use lithium ion batteries, which are a great way to save a bit of weight, but in some cases they can be more dangerous than exploding footwear and underwear. Following a couple of highly publicised battery incidents, the Dremliner fleet was grounded in January. Since the battery tech was all new, the FAA had to approve a set of special conditions for fire safety on the Dreamliner in 2007.

A Boeing committee issued a set of guidelines in March 2008 to minimise the risk of Li-Ion batteries. However, Boeing never had to meet the more stringent guidelines. The FAA never required it and Boeing chose to ignore them.

Boeing is now scrambling to get the Dreamiliner battery system up to spec and apply the tougher RTCA standard, published in 2008. However, it seems like it is too little too late.

Former NTSB board member John Goglia told Reuters that Boeing’s decision to use the  tandard is basically an admission that the company didn’t do a good job to begin with. Last month, the NTSB questioned the assumptions made by Boeing and the FAA during the battery certification process in 2007.

A Boeing spokesperson said the RTCA standard was not used because the it came too late, after Boeing had completed certification. Boeing is about one-third through testing under the stricter RTCA standard and it is likely to get the job done in a couple of weeks.

It is still unclear when the Dreamliner fleet will start flying again. 

Boeing's Dreamliner fleet grounded by faulty batteries

The European Aviation Safety Agency announced today that it is joining the US Federal Aviation Administration directive to ground all Boeing 787 aircraft over safety concerns.

The decision to ground the Dreamliner fleet comes after a series of worrisome incidents in Japan and the US. An All Nippon Airways flight was forced to make an emergency landing earlier this week, after the crew reported a strange smell in the cockpit and noticed a problem with the plane’s lithium-ion batteries.

The Japanese ministry of transport promptly ordered that all Dreamliners be kept on the ground until the battery problem can be addressed. Indian, European and US aviation regulators also decided to ground the new planes. Middle Eastern carriers also joined the fun.

It doesn’t appear that all issues plaguing the Dreamliner fleet were caused by faulty lithium-ion batteries, but the All Nippon Airways incident apparently was. The batteries used in the Boeing 787 are supplied by GS Yuasa, a Japanese company that is probably not enjoying all the publicity.

GS Yuasa press officer Tsutomu Nishijima told CNN that the Dreamliner is the “first private jet” to use a lithium battery. Nishijima noted that lithium batteries can heat up quickly due to their structure, but they have systems and circuits in place to prevent overheating.

Tech enthusiasts should be able to recall a series of well publicised incidents with exploding li-ion batteries in laptops and smartphones, but aerospace spec gear should be able to stand up to more punishment than your average 8-cell laptop battery.

Lithium ion batteries offer some very appealing characteristics, as they deliver more density in a lighter package than traditional batteries, allowing aircraft designers to shave off a bit of weight. However, they can also be potentially hazardous and Boeing had to get special approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to use them in the 787.

Luckily the 787 is still a pretty rare sight in our skies. Only 50 planes have been delivered so far, but Boeing has more than 800 on order. Boeing is confident that Dreamliners are completely safe to fly, but the FAA doesn’t seem convinced at this point, and it wants Boeing and 787 operators to prove that the batteries are indeed safe. 

Boeing replaces humans with sacks of potatoes

Boeing has found a way to test wireless signals onboard its planes, using the pinnacle of aviation technology – a sack of potatoes.

The aircraft manufacturer’s engineers were faced with a quandary when testing inflight radio signal quality. Planes are increasingly making use of in-flight wireless systems, but there is the potential that they can interfere with a plane’s electrical systems.

Ensuring that there is a strong enough signal to meet regulatory standards, while also delivering a usable wireless signal, requires engineers tweaking the systems, and that can take a lot of time, even up to two weeks.    

To accurately replicate flight situations, testing would also require the presence of a cabin full of humans sitting in passenger seats on a dummy flight.

However, Boeing engineers found a way to resolve testing problems was by substituting humans for large sacks of potatoes.

Apparently the vegetables behave in a very similar way to humans on a plane.  This means they are able to block out radio waves as they pass through the cabin, just as a human would, though they are less likely to demand free beer or ask to meet the pilot. 

To speed up wireless signal testing, Boeing staff filled seats on one of its decommissioned aircraft with 20,000 sacks of potatoes.

Aside from doing little to dispel perceptions that modern airlines treat passengers little better than freighted cargo, the test enabled engineers to successfully tweak wireless signals in a fraction of the time, taking just ten hours.

Test data was then validated with non-vegetable passengers, with Boeing claiming that the end result is greater reliability and safety on its flights.

And the name of the tuber testing method put in place by the engineers?  That would be Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution, or, abbreviated, SPUDS – of course.


Intel uses aircraft design on Ultrabooks

Chipzilla has been tapping aircraft designers in a bid to get the manufacturing of its  Ultrabooks that little bit cheaper.

One of the problems that it is facing with getting Ultrabooks accepted is that punters think they are little too expensive.

Intel’s R&D centre has been wining and dining former Boeing employees and has come up with a design method to make plastic laptop cases as strong as more expensive metal ones typically used in Ultrabooks.

Ben Broili, head of the team told Avionics Intelligence  that the techniques may cut the cost of future ultrabooks by between $25 and $75 by letting manufactures use plastic cases instead of metal ones.

Using ideas from the aerospace industry, the engineers have found that hard drives, motherboards and other components that make up the guts of a PC can be laid out in ways that make the laptops’ structure much stronger.

They did not need to develop a new material and it was possible to make the computers using an existing plastic.

Intel said that it just requires some more upfront thought initially about how you lay your system out and how you can bring these things together and tie them in.

What the Boeing engineers got them thinking was how different components in the laptop can be used to support the chassis, or dissipate heat from the microprocessor, which as the world+dog is well aware is the “brain” of a computer. 

US may relax tech export controls on India

Barack Obama’s visit to India next month may see an easing of US export controls on technology to the country.

According to a report in the Economic Times, there’s a real “buzz” in industry circles that the US might even remove the key Indian units completely from the banned “Entities List”.

President Obama is due to travel to New Delhi in early November and it looks like defence and technology could both be high on the agenda.

India is denied technology in 11 of the 16 categories but since it has now signed the India-US civil nuclear deal, analysts are apparently saying that this situation should change.

As India has become stronger in terms of its economy and military – rivalling China – so too has it become more attractive to the US to have it as a strategic partner.

And with India widely reported to be keen on spending vast amounts of money on buying Boeing transport aircraft as well as military jet engines from General Electric, it’s believed that Obama could relax the restrictions in areas such as technology and energy.

One of the factors complicating matters is some of the recent activity by India in the tech sector. The Wall Street Journal reports that there are concerns as major technology firms such as Google and Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd face “new and confusing demands to comply with government surveillance and censorship requests” in the country.

Meanwhile, The Hindu Business Line reports there had been hopes that signing the civil nuclear deal with the US would immediately end the restrictions on high-tech exports to India. But there have been concerns in the US that the latest technology could have “dual use implications” in certain fields, and could be used for civilian or defence purposes. It explained: “For instance, hardware and software technologies can be used for manufacturing missiles and corporate work.”

Add to the mix the fact that the US needs Pakistan – a traditional enemy of India – as an ally because of Afghanistan, and it’s one heady brew.