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10 New Concepts, Technologies Developed to Address COVID-19 in Aviation

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic in March, companies across different segments of the aviation industry have introduced new concepts, initiatives, trials and technologies designed to help the aviation industry reduce the transmission of the virus.

Here, Avionics lists 10 of these new technologies — in no particular order — released in recent months for different COVID-19 related use cases across aviation.

Killing Cabin Bacteria with UV Lighting

JetBlue is the first U.S. airline to start evaluating the use of Honeywell’s UV cabin system for cabin disinfection and sanitization.Honeywell Aerospace

In June, a new strategic partnership allowed Honeywell Aerospace to bring Dimer LLC’s GermFalcon machine to commercial airline cabins as the Honeywell UV System. Dimer will continue to sell the same technology separately to the healthcare industry as the UV Hammer.

“Although limited testing has been done specifically as to affectivity against COVID-19, clinical tests show that, properly applied, germicidal UV light can reduce various bacteria and viruses on exposed surfaces. The technology is non-toxic, uses no chemicals and is sustainable,” Dimer said in a press release describing the machine’s potential to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

According to Honeywell, no testing has been done specifically to understand how it protects surfaces or enclosed environments such as buildings or aircraft cabins from transmission of COVID-19. Honeywell envisions airlines that operate hundreds or more aircraft to be capable of integrating the UV System into their operations for “less than 10 dollars per use. “

On July 29, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to start using the system, after receiving eight of the devices as part of its “Safety from the Ground Up” program, where the technology will be evaluated over a 90-day period on flights operating out of John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

“As we look to add additional layers of protection by utilizing cutting-edge technology, we have identified the Honeywell UV Cabin System as a potential game changer when it comes to efficiently assisting in our efforts to sanitize surfaces onboard,” said JetBlue COO Joanna Geraghty.

Bombardier Air Quality Sensor System Concept

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to Bombardier for a cabin/cockpit air quality monitoring system on July 7, 2020.Bombardier

In July, Bombardier was granted a patent for the use of specialized air quality sensors for monitoring cabin and cockpit air quality that the Canadian business jet maker applied for well ahead of the outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

According to the patent filing, the system comprises two sensors, a sensor data module, and individual air quality monitoring and distribution systems configured to monitor airborne contaminants that can occasionally appear within the aircraft’s ventilation system.

“The sources of smoke and smell are variable and typically hard to identify. Pilot experience is often relied upon to determine which air source is providing the contamination and how to address the issue, combined with aircraft operating procedures,” the patent says.

An overview of the configuration places the sensors data module within a location where it can receive sensor data from one sensor installed between a selected air compressor and the cabin as well as a second sensor installed between the recirculation systems and the cabin. There is also a distribution system configured to combine the compressed air from the aircraft’s air compressor and recirculated air from the recirculation to then distribute the combined compressed air and recirculate air into the cabin.

Alert signals focused on notifying airlines of the source of air contamination and rising or severe levels of air contamination possibly existing somewhere in the recirculation system or within the cabin or cockpit on would be triggered by an air quality monitoring system connected to the sensor data module.

Bombardier envisions the system consisting of a variety of configurations based on a aircraft type and air recirculation/ventilation system architecture.

Transport Canada Certifies HEPA Filter Kit for Dash-8 Series Aircraft

Transport Canada issued a type certification for a HEPA filter installation kit on Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft.

A cabin air recirculation high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter installation kit for Bombardier Dash 8 100/200/300 aircraft developed by Collins Aerospace achieved Transport Canada type certification on June 16.

Collins describes the kit as featuring a filter pack aluminum enclosure with one pre filter and one HEPA filter, designed to slide into the Dash 8’s existing filter box. Estimated upgrade time requires about “10 minutes of labor.”

Five airlines that remain unnamed have placed orders for the filter kits for their fleet.

“In the current cabin environment, air is drawn from the cabin where it is mixed with fresh air before being distributed back to the cabin with minimal filtering. Designed as a retro-fit for Dash 8 (-100/-200/-300) aircraft, the upgraded HEPA filter solution enables cabin air to be filtered before reaching the condenser mixer,” Collins Aerospace said in a statement.

Future Pure Skies Cabin Interior Replaces Class with ‘Zones’

PriestmanGoode’s Pure Skies cabin interior concept envisions staggered and non-staggered seat configurations. PriestmanGoode

PriestmanGoode is developing a future-focused disruptive aircraft cabin interior concept that blends the use of germ resistant materials with spacing and technology to enhance in-flight social distancing and sanitization.

The concept, called “Pure Skies,” is at least three years away from becoming a reality, according the London-based design firm that is also known for the cabin interior concepts it developed for Embraer’s E2 jets. Moving away from the traditional commercial airliner business and economy class configurations, Pure Skies is arranged into rooms and zones where spacing and technology drastically reduce passenger touchpoints.

Seat configurations within the Pure Skies “Zones” concept have no seatback screens, trays or literature pockets; instead, airlines would use clip-on options for meal trays and personal device seatback attachments.

Pure Skies seats will feature a message of reassurance to passengers as they board the aircraft before it disappears as they’re seated. PriestmanGoode

“Each room features gesture-controlled IFE, synched to the passenger’s own device, a completely redesigned seat with minimal split lines and welded fabric seams; and a modular design concept that provides personal overhead stowage, containing bedding and a personal wardrobe,” Jo Rowan, associate director of strategy at PriestmanGoode said in a statement.

Cabin UVC lighting, heat cleaning and fogging are also included in the Pure Skies concept. Maria Kafel-Bentkowska, head of color materials fabrics for PriestmanGoode, said the Pure Skies seating eliminates “all but the essential seat breaks needed for functionality.”

Inflight Dublin’s COVID-19 Wireless IFE Flight Trial

In-flight Dublin is offering its wireless IFE server Everhub, pictured here, on a free six-month trial basis to airlines that are still flying amid the impact of COVID-19 on passenger demandIn-Flight Dublin

Inflight Dublin is offering airlines a free six-month trial of its wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) server Everhub. The Irish supplier of cabin IFE hardware and software sees the free six-month trial as an opportunity for operators to “pause” content and integration costs.

The DO-160G certified portable server can run off battery or aircraft power, features browser-based DRM content and removable SSD cards for loading and offloading IFE content.

Everhub, already in use at several carriers, including most recently Kenya Airway, is being offered to airlines “seeking support during this difficult period,” according to a July 16 In-flight Dublin press release.

“Wireless IFE is continuing to grow in popularity as it minimizes touchpoints for passengers and is an affordable option for airlines that want to deliver high-quality content to their passengers,” said In-flight Dublin CEO John White.

Project Blue Sky Includes Touchless Galleys and UV Disinfection

Jamco Corp. envisions future seats that self-disinfect using UV cabin lighting, as shown here, with its Project Blue Sky initiative.Jamco Corp.

Jamco Corp., the Japanese supplier of cabin interior and seating to Airbus and Boeing among other airplane manufacturers, has launched an initiative it describes as “Project Blue Sky.”

“The “Project Blue Sky” initiative includes the latest in hygienic and touchless air cabin technologies, including seats, cabin dividers, and lavatories, as well as improved disinfection technologies for use in locations throughout the cabin,” a representative for Jamco Corp. told Avionics International in an emailed statement.

Some of the key elements of Project Blue Sky are a clean cabin transparent seat divider positioned above the cabin seats. Lavatory areas include touches toilet seats and a focus on minimizing all contact in high touch areas throughout the cabin.

“Jamco is also working to revolutionize the process of aircraft disinfection through its UV disinfection concepts. The company is pursuing the development of UV disinfection technology; ultraviolet rays have been proven to destroy the DNA structure of viruses and bacteria, thus preventing the spread of diseases,” the representative said.

Jamco supplies the lavatory, galley and cockpit door and bulkhead for the Boeing 787 as well the rear galley for the Airbus A350 XWB. The company has not specified a timeline on when they expect Project Blue Sky to become a reality.

New Blockchain Health Application ID for Airline Passengers

GE Aviation describes its new health credential application, “Health Application ID,” as using blockchain technology to encrypt the storage and transmission of passenger and aircraft cabin data associated with the boarding process.

The jet engine and avionics maker provided few details about the new application in a June 11 press release other than stating that it focuses on screening airline passengers and employees for being COVID-19 free and storing that data securely for tracking and tracing efforts. According to GE, Health Application ID uses Microsoft Azure Blockchain Service “and related technologies that create a protocol to embed passenger identity information, ticket information, and medical screening results into the boarding process in a highly secure environment.”

Using Health Application ID, operators will be able to digitally set their test result protocols to be automatically checked according to compliance with new COVID-19 medical screening requirements for airline and airport workers as well as passengers. As medical testing and regulations evolve, the requirements to be met within the application are simultaneously updated.

“We are combining GE Aviation’s data and analytics domain expertise with the scale and secure capabilities of Microsoft Azure along with TE-FOOD’s blockchain technology and best practices from the food industry to create a product that brings the best scalable solution to the aviation industry. This offering gives control to the passengers by allowing them to view the cleaning history of the aircraft. Airlines gain more control by being able to record events as they occur, which enables pandemic containment and auditable records,” said David Havera, GM of GE Aviation’s blockchain division.

Several “airlines, airports and industry groups” are currently evaluating the use of Health Application ID in their operations, according to GE.

BlackSky Spectra AI to Track COVID-19 Impact for Air Force

A satellite image of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport reveals an unusually high number of parked airplanes (identified in yellow boxes) and an unusually low number of parked cars. That’s consistent with what would be expected during the COVID-19 pandemic. BlackSky

The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Air Force Research Lab have awarded geospatial intelligence analytics company BlackSky a contract to monitor COVID-19 mitigation efforts involving U.S. military bases and supply chains, BlackSky announced July 21.

BlackSky will use its Spectra artificial intelligence and machine-learning platform to monitor overseas U.S. military bases, ensure the protection of deployed personnel and helping to maintain secure supply chains in near-real time.

Spectra will automatically analyze anomalies involving virus activity and monitor the application of social distancing preventative measures. The captured data will then be correlated against the reported infection numbers coming from local governments and integrated into the latest epidemiology models to predict risk to deployed U.S. Air Force personnel and the surrounding communities.

“It is imperative to have transparency into the status of critical nodes of the supply chain for planning purposes. With BlackSky’s global monitoring capability, the U.S. Air Force can maintain a watchful eye over its supply chain,” BlackSky CEO Brian O’Toole said in a statement. “Spectra will provide the Air Force an easy to use outbreak monitoring and decision support tool. The platform will help us combat the spread of COVID-19, manage risk and ensure the protection of personnel around the globe.”

Heathrow Airport Evaluates Thermal Imaging for COVID-19 Screenings

IATA is advocating the use of saliva swabs for pre-flight testing of passengers for COVID-19. Airports and airlines are trying different approaches to testing right now, including the use of thermal image screening at Heathrow International Airport, pictured here.Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport is actively trialing the use of UV sanitation, facial recognition thermal screening technology and contactless security procedures. In Terminal 2, the airport is using camera detection systems that are capable of monitoring the temperatures of multiple people as they move through the airport.

Thermal imaging is one of several technologies the airport is evaluating in efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Others include the use of UV sanitation robots and contactless security checkpoint technologies.

“We have reviewed the entire Heathrow airport experience to ensure that our passengers and colleagues are kept safe as travel resumes to ‘Green’ and ‘Amber’ countries,” said Heathrow Airport CEO John Kaye in a July 15 statement. “Now we need Government to safely restore Britain’s long-haul connections as the country prepares for life outside the EU, with Common International Standards for COVID testing from ‘Red’ countries.”

HALO Sensor Advances IoT Concept of Wireless Cabin Air Quality Monitoring

L2 Aviation is working on a ruggedized version of IPVideo Corp.'s HALO IoT smart sensor for commercial airline cabins.L2 Aviation

L2 Aviation and IPVideo Corp. introduced a patent-pending HALO smart air quality monitoring system designed to provide an Internet of Things (IoT) approach to cabin air quality monitoring during a June 9 webinar.

The two companies have partnered in an effort to ruggedize and integrate HALO into aircraft cabins to help airlines not only monitor cabin air quality, but also gather empirical data about it.

“There’s nothing in an airplane today installed or portable that can capture what is truly in cabin air and all areas of fuselage, flight deck to the labs to the galleys and cargo areas,” L2 Aviation CEO Mark Lebovitz said. “What if we could show what was floating around to include the really bad elements?”

IPVideo Corp., the Bay Shore, New York-based provider of HALO, describes the IoT sensor as an environmental monitoring tool designed to measure changes in air quality by the micron. The company’s website shows how public schools have started adopting HALO in recent years as a method for identifying vape with web-based dashboard monitoring of the HALOs located in areas throughout buildings.