Airbus at APEX Los Angeles

During APEX Expo in Los Angeles, Airbus discussed their in-flight trials of IoT connected cabin technologies on board an A350-900 Flight Lab aircraft. In doing so, Airbus becomes the first aircraft manufacturer to undertake such flight-testing of actual connected cabin innovations. The platform, known as the Airspace Connected Experience, was unveiled at the APEX Expo Boston in 2018. The airframer said this technology will usher in a new personalized experience for passengers and provide opportunities for improving airlines’ ancillary revenues and operational efficiencies.

The Flight Lab aircraft is one of the original A350-900 certification flight-test aircraft and is fitted with an Airspace cabin which now serves as the ideal platform to evaluate the new connected cabin technologies in flight. In conjunction with their best-in-class cabin partners, an initial set of working elements have been installed. These include prototypes of the Connected iSeat (Recaro), the Connected Galley (gategroup), a remote wireless cabin management control system, a large OLED display and importantly, the first step of Airbus’ new “IoT backbone” which includes an open software platform. These innovations are all now being tested in flight.

Airbus said that the connected cabin ecosystem will enable significant value-adding services for passengers, airlines and crews. Possible examples include:

  • Passengers will receive a more personalized travel experience specifically targeted to the individual needs and preferences, based on the available data. In particular this covers remote and pre-ordering of preferred meals, booking of private bin space, setting of individual seat positions as well as a tailor-made inflight IFE offer.
  • Airlines will be able to generate additional ancillary revenues through personalized retail and advertisement as well as new services, all enabled by the IoT approach. Furthermore, airlines will be able to improve their operational efficiency applying predictive maintenance, avoiding waste and making crew services more efficient. Other opportunities can easily be created and applied via apps.
  • Crews will find a better working environment and more efficient tools, digitally enabled by real-time data from the IoT platform throughout the cabin. A mobile smart device will allow crews to monitor and operate all components.

Customer-centric approach

The in-flight tests are part of their customer-centric approach, which began with workshops to create and prioritize innovative concepts, followed by an extensive phase of on-ground testing and customer evaluation of the connected elements. The subsequent testing of these innovations in an Airbus Flight Lab environment is key to bringing an integrated Connected Experience to fruition – being able to validate and refine them in a real airborne cabin. In particular, the tests allow the various elements to be operated and monitored during a normal flight cycle, especially with regard to the end-to-end data flow robustness within the systems and between them. The next steps will continue testing of the current setup, then close the feedback loop with airlines using Airbus’ Customer Experience Teams (CET) forum, by around year-end.

More Airbus News

  • Airbus SE notes the decision of the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the level of countermeasures it authorizes the United States to impose on products from the European Union (EU). If the United States Trade Representative (USTR) chooses to impose tariffs on the importation of aircraft and/or aircraft components, this will create insecurity and disruption not only to the aerospace industry, but also to the broader global economy. Yet it is still avoidable. In the coming months, the WTO will determine the amount of tariff countermeasures the EU can impose on US products – including imported Boeing aircraft – in the parallel counter case regarding illegal subsidies to Boeing. The WTO has already found that the US failed to address illegal subsidies causing harm to Airbus. This will provide the EU with grounds to claim countermeasures on US products at a level that could exceed US sanctions. If applied, these tariffs on both sides will severely impact US and EU industries, putting high costs on the acquisition of new aircraft for both US and EU airlines. Aviation is a global industry. Evidence of that is the fact that close to 40 percent of Airbus’ aircraft-related procurement comes from US aerospace suppliers. This US supply chain supports 275,000 American jobs in 40 states through spending that has totaled $50 billion in the last three years alone. If tariffs are applied, the entire global industry will be harmed. The only way to prevent the negative effects of these tariff would be for the US and EU to find a resolution to this long-running dispute through a negotiated settlement.
  • Airbus inaugurated its highly automated fuselage structure assembly line for A320 Family aircraft in Hamburg, showcasing an evolution in Airbus’ industrial production system. With a special focus on manufacturing longer sections for the A321LR, the new facility features 20 robots, a new logistics concept, automated positioning by laser measurement as well as a digital data acquisition system. These will further support Airbus’ drive to improve both quality and efficiency while bringing an enhanced level of digitization to its industrial production system. For the initial section assembly, Airbus is using a modular, lightweight automated system, called “Flextrack”, with eight robots drilling and counter-sinking 1,100 to 2,400 holes per longitudinal joint. In the next production step, 12 robots, each operating on seven axes, combine the center and aft fuselage sections with the tail to form one major component, drilling, counter-sinking, sealing and inserting 3,000 rivets per orbital joint. Besides the use of robots, Airbus is also implementing new methods and technologies in material and parts logistics to optimize production, improve ergonomics and shorten lead times. This includes the separation of logistics and production levels, demand-oriented material replenishment as well as the use of autonomous guided vehicles. The Hamburg structure assembly facility is responsible for joining single fuselage shells into sections, as well as final assembly of single sections to aircraft fuselages. Aircraft parts are equipped with electrical and mechanical systems before eventually being delivered to the final assembly lines in France, Germany, China and the US.

Carlisle Interconnect Technologies

Carlisle Interconnect Technologies (CIT) announced the award of a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) supplemental type certificate (STC) for installation of satellite communications (SATCOM) provisions on Boeing B777-300 and B777-300ER series aircraft. This award helps ensure consumers have the high-quality, in-flight connectivity that they have come to expect each time they fly. 

The specified FAA STC allows for the installation of structural provisions and the outside aircraft equipment package for a cabin upgrade incorporating a dual-band (Ka/Ku) terminal. The dual-band terminal allows for in-flight network switching across Ku- and Ka-band satellite networks, providing more reliable in-flight entertainment and communication access to travelers. 

The certified installation design follows a previously issued FAA STC for Airbus A320 series aircraft. CIT provided all design, qualification, approvals, and certification resources associated with the installation. The aircraft equipment packages were manufactured and conformed at the company’s facility in Franklin, Wis.

CIT leads the market in aerospace SATCOM applications, with over 2,500 installations delivered worldwide. From component manufacturing to fully-integrated engineered solutions, CIT has the capability and flexibility to support various consumer needs. Contact CIT via email for additional information.


Inmarsat
Inmarsat signed a contract with the European Space Agency for phase two of the ground-breaking Iris air traffic modernization program, which will include important flight trials across Europe to assess the service in a real operational environment. Iris is being developed to deliver powerful benefits to European aviation by enabling high bandwidth, cost-effective satellite-based datalink communications over Europe. The program contributes to the delivery of the ‘Single European Sky’, which focuses on modernizing air traffic management and air navigation efficiency. Satellite communications reduces the pressure on ground-based frequencies, which third party reports have indicated will be under significant capacity stress in the next 5-10 years.
As part of the program’s second phase, flight trials will be conducted on approximately 20 aircraft flying commercially over a six-month period starting in 2020, allowing Iris to be assessed in a real operational environment. Selected airlines will take part in the demonstration, with the support of leading Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), to evaluate the Iris program for air traffic control (ATC) and airline operational communications (AOC) across continental Europe. Also in this phase, Inmarsat will work with ESA to prepare for pan-European certification of the Iris service provider and define a distribution agreement. In addition, Inmarsat and its partners, such as Thales Alenia Space, will prepare for future air traffic control requirements through research & development and prototyping. This will include transitioning to the Aeronautical Telecommunications Network/Internet Protocol Suite (ATN/IPS) standard, which will make the service truly global. Iris was initiated in 2014, when ESA selected Inmarsat to lead a consortium of European technology companies to develop the program, including Airbus, Boeing, Honeywell and Thales, in addition to leading ANSPs across the continent, such as DFS (Germany), DSNA (France), ENAIRE (Spain), ENAV (Italy), EUROCONTROL MUAC (North-West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) and NATS (UK). Iris is powered by Inmarsat’s award-winning SB-S digital aircraft operations platform operating on its L-band network that has underpinned global safety services for 40 years. Inmarsat is scheduled to launch two new, advanced L-band payloads to join its existing fleet in 2020 and 2021, further cementing the company’s long-term commitment to the highly reliable safety communications services it offers to the aviation community over this spectrum.


Boeing
Boeing is funding the creation of a state-of-the-art laboratory facility dedicated to the research and testing of autonomous aerial vehicles within Stanford University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The Boeing Flight & Autonomy Laboratory features a control room and maker area, the newest motion-capture cameras and sensor networks, and a public observation area. The lab is the latest support by Boeing in Stanford’s Aero/Astro department. In addition to the $2.5 million contribution to fund the Boeing Flight & Autonomy Laboratory, located in the Durand Building, Boeing is a founding member of the Stanford Aero/Astro Launch Fund for a new undergraduate program in aeronautics and astronautics. The inaugural class in that program will graduate in 2020.


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