In aircraft, sensors learn to talk wirelessly
Since wireless networks are far less complex than cable looms and wired networks, the aircraft industry could save lots of money if they could replace the looms. In addition, wireless data links offer higher design flexibility. The Alpen-Adria University and Lakeside Labs GmbH and (both Klagenfurt, Austria) along with Aircraft manufacturer Airbus Group have launched the research project Reliable Wireless Sensor Networks for Aircraft Applications (REWISE) that aims at bringing wireless data networks to the operational safety and security level required for commercial airplane deployment.
To ensure the resilience and reliability of such wireless data networks, the network architecture and communications protocols need to be designed accordingly. “These properties have to be proved through theoretical investigations as well as through measurements in a relevant environment”, explains Jirka Klaue from Airbus Group Innovations.
“The problem that needs to be solved can be compared with a situation when you sit at a table with many others and try to have a conversation with any person. As long as no-one else is talking at the same time, this is possible without any problems. As soon as however another person starts to talk as well or a radio is switched on, you perceive this as noise and you will speak up to enable your partner to understand you. This behaviour is a kind of “protocol” to make further conversation possible," says Daniel Neuhold, doctoral candiate at the Institute of Embedded and Connected Systems of the Alpen-Adria University. The researchers are facing a situation with a very high number of “conversation partners” that exchange information simultaneously.
The goal of the project is evaluating wireless communications protocols under conditions of a aircraft environment. Towards this end, the researchers will specify industry-relevant applications, usage scenarios and quality-of-service requirements. Based on these specs as well as models that in turn are based on measurement data of wireless communication channels, they will develop and test communications protocols that fit aircraft applications.