ONTD Political

Boeing Uses 20K Pounds of Potatoes to Test Aircraft Wireless Signals

1:48 am - 12/27/2012
The headlines just write themselves sometimes.

Boeing, in a quest to develop a more reliable method for deploying wireless connectivity during flight, decided to go to grocery store for a bit of assistance. And, go figure, the airplane manufacturer's experimentation worked.

By substituting sacks of potatoes for human beings as part of its cleverly named, "Project SPUDS," Boeing has been able to improve its wireless testing capabilities which, in turn, should allow the manufacturer to be able to tweak the wireless capabilities of its planes to ensure more consistent, speedy access around the cabin.

Yes, sacks of potatoes.

As it turns out, the 20,000 pounds or so of potatoes that Boeing used to fill the seats of a test aircraft cabin serve as excellent stand-ins for the hundreds of actual people that the company's tests would otherwise require. Potatoes, it seems, do a great job of replicating the normal interactions between wireless signals and a living, human body, although human subjects were eventually used for the last bits of Boeing's wireless testing.

According to the company, the replacement potatoes allowed Boeing to reduce its overall wireless testing time from more than two weeks to just 10 short hours. Additionally, engineers deployed a new, proprietary method for measuring signal quality in the tests that allegedly increased Boeing's overall testing efficiency. These undisclosed methods were first developed to allow the company to test that wireless signals weren't interfering with the aircraft's electrical systems.

"One of the wonderful aspects of our improved testing is that we can describe both strong and weak signals with incredible accuracy," said Boeing spokesman Adam Tischler in a statement provided to CNN.

"Engineers who are concerned primarily with operational safety of an airplane can see if the strong signals are safe for the airplane's communication and navigation systems. Meanwhile, an engineer who is concerned with getting every passenger a really good network signal can see if the weak signals are propagating through the airplane with enough power to provide a good usability experience."

The spud stand-ins were eventually donated to a local food bank.

PC Magazine
layweed 27th-Dec-2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
I don't get why it's such a big deal. All they're doing is substituting one medium for another, with similar dielectric constants. Gotta give credit to the geniuses at Boeing who came up with the project name though, lol. SPUDS = Synthetic Personnel Using Dialectic Substitution.

ETA: oh yeah. I don't fly much these days, but is the in-flight wifi even worth it? When I flew AA I could never find rates/prices for going online, and that by itself was enough to scare me out of even trying it.

Edited at 2012-12-27 05:51 pm (UTC)
paksenarrion2 28th-Dec-2012 06:29 am (UTC)
I did it once on Delta and honestly? I didn't find it really worth if for the $10 price tag. I have a Kindle Fire (now the new 8.9" HD) and have a couple of movies downloaded so I can watch a movie or read a book. Tweeting or FBing while in the air just isn't that important.

I think most people will try it once just for the novelty of being able to say "Look ma, I'm posting from the airplane." About the only people that would routinely use it are probably business travelers.

and yes, I totally made one of those "I'm posting from the airplane posts on FB". had to get my $10 worth of airtime now didn't I? ;-)
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