Avionics Digital Edition

Editor's Note: Autonomous Flight Tracking

Collectively, the global aviation electronics industry is defining the way minute-by-minute autonomous distress flight tracking will occur in the future.

Collectively, the global aviation electronics industry is defining the way minute-by-minute autonomous distress flight tracking will occur in the future. At a minimum, aircraft manufactured after January 1, 2021 are required to autonomously provide position reports every minute and a status update on the type of distress the aircraft is experiencing.

The good news is the technology to enable minute-by-minute tracking for the most part is available today. Avionics equipage requirements generally include a communications management unit and the ability to stream distress and position reports off the aircraft in an actionable, readable format.

This month's cover article focuses on what new technologies are emerging that can meet ICAO's 2021 autonomous distress tracking requirements. Although the agency is also requiring timely recovery of flight data capability on post-2021 airliners, the two topics really require singularly focused articles to cover them in-depth—so look out for future coverage of the timely recovery of flight data aspect of the 2021 requirements.

What was most interesting to learn from so many of the interviews was that a lot of the work to enable minute by minute flight tracking can be automated and customized from the ground. For example, one of the companies interviewed provided a remote WebEx demonstration of exactly how they proved the ability of their aircraft computer-cloud concept to broadcast a distress condition minute-by-minute on a graphical user interface that also depicts an exact representation of primary flight display altitude, airspeed and attitude information. The interface is easy to understand and works in a drag, drop and plot protocol, giving the user the ability to trigger what conditions should be streamed or graphed minute-by-minute style with the click of a mouse.

Also featured in this issue, we provide a look at Boeing's efforts to introduce an MCAS software update for the 737 MAX, the global fleet of which remains grounded as of the ship-to-printer date for this edition of Avionics. We also analyze liquid cooling approaches to thermally managing aircraft embedded systems, and a guest opinion author gives an overview of how aerospace manufacturing and purchasing is evolving. Finally, Mark Robins looks at the latest trends driving the expansion of aircraft interface device technology.

I hope to learn what some of our readers want us to cover more during the annual AEEC/AMC conference in Prague.