Airline tests onboard Wi-Fi with sacks of potatoes

Ceri Roberts
Airline tests onboard Wi-Fi with sacks of potatoes
Airline tests onboard Wi-Fi with sacks of potatoes

PA


Airlines and aircraft makers have been working hard to improve Wi-Fi signal strength onboard planes - and they have come up with a novel way to test it.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, engineers at Boeing in Chicago have used sacks of potatoes as stand-ins for passengers while they work to remove signal weak spots. They needed full planes to get accurate results, but couldn't ask people to sit still for long enough for the necessary data to be gathered.

Curiously, potatoes turned out to be a great passenger substitute because their water content and chemistry means that they absorb and reflect radio wave signals in the same way that the human body does.

Boeing spokesman Adam Tischler told the newspaper: "It's a testament to the ingenuity of these engineers. They didn't go in with potatoes as the plan."

Mr Tischler explained that a member of the research team read an articles in the Journal of Food Science describing research in which fruits and vegetables were evaluated for the way they transmit electric force without conduction.

This led the Boeing researchers to wonder if potatoes might work as a substitute for passengers - so they bought 20,000lbs of them.

The engineers placed sacks of potatoes on each seat and were then able to develop a system to fine tune internet signals so that they would be strong and reliable in all areas of the plane.

The Independent reports that the system also ensures that Wi-Fi signals will not interfere with the plane's navigation and communication equipment.

Boeing engineer Dennis Lewis explains in a video: "From a safety standpoint, you want to know what the peak signals are, what's the strongest signal one of our communications and navigation systems might see from a laptop or 150 laptops or 350 laptops."

As a result of this research, the company says that better Wi-Fi signals can now be found on three Boeing aircraft models: 777, 747-8 and the 787 Dreamliner.

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