Flight tests prove ‘black-box-in-the-cloud’ technology can help locate missing aircraft


Satellite communications and flight tracking company FLYHT’s Automated Flight Information Reporting System has been successfully demonstrated on Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator aircraft.

The successful test, which also involved Embraer, is the first time the data from an aircraft’s flight data recorder has been streamed over a satellite network for the duration of a flight, validating its use as a ‘black-box-in-the-cloud’.

According to FLYHT, the tests show that existing equipment can be used to providing distress flight data and audio streaming capabilities that support the latest ICAO objectives on distress and safety systems.

Thomas Schmutz, CEO of FLYHT said, “This is another example of how we continue to demonstrate the value of our real-time aircraft data streaming.

“In this instance we validated its usefulness for distressed flight situations and support of the ICAO objectives for the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System mandate.”

Derek Graham, chief technical officer of FLYHT said, “Timely access to flight data and autonomous distress tracking are key capabilities for achieving compliance with the GADSS requirement, and we are gratified to see the tests validating the solution.”

The flight tests, which took place over 80 hours aimed to show how real-time data streaming technology could support the timely recovery of flight recorder data. The trial activities used FLYHT’s AFIRS data streaming solution and both Iridium SBD, and Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satellite networks to stream data that is usually captured by the flight data recorder.

The data was captured and also displayed as a 3D animation. This allowed operators on the ground to view a virtual display of the pilots’ primary flight display, engine gauges, and flight controls in near real-time.

The aviation industry has been testing technology to aid the recovery of flight data recorders and to better locate aircraft in distress after the unfortunate accidents of Air France Flight 447 in 2009 and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in 2014. It took two years to locate Air France Flight 447’s flight recorders, while the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is yet to be found.

ICAO’s GADSS standards and practices for reporting aircraft location and status specify new capabilities for commercial aircraft operators that may require newly installed equipment. The first standards become effective from November 2018.

The findings and a presentation made to the AEEC GAT are available to view at this website.



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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 20 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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