upgrade: the future of plane tracking tech
Smarter black boxes The common question during the search for Flight MH370: why don’t black boxes constantly stream flight info to the ground? The answer is a lack of affordable bandwidth. There is a potential solution, though. Triggered transmissions would send a report automatically if a plane starts rolling or issues a stall warning. This potentially could pinpoint a flight’s last known position to within 11 kilometres and give hints as to the events leading to a crash. The idea is being discussed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation this October. 2/ Longer voice recordings from the cockpit A Boeing 777’s recorder can pick up just two hours of audio, pointless for long-haul flights. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) proposes extending this to 15 hours. 3/ More effective underwater pings All black boxes emit an ultrasonic pulse once a second for up to 30 days after a flight goes down in the sea. A decision has already been made to up that time to 90 days, giving search teams a longer window. However, those black-box pingers can be hard to hear under miles of water. For that reason, the EASA has suggested a long-range, low-frequency 8.8 kilohertz ping, like a whale song, be attached to planes that travel ocean routes regularly. It would extend the range from 1,500m to 10.7km. 4/
Tracking over oceans Sending location data over existing pings would help with tracking flights through GPS black spots, such as oceans. The Iridium satellite network will offer aircraft location data service Aireon from 2017, which requires no upgrade to existing planes.