Airbus has commenced in-flight trials of Internet of Things (IoT)-connected cabin technologies on board an A350-900 Flight Lab aircraft.
Airbus says that in doing so it becomes the first aircraft manufacturer to undertake such flight-testing of actual connected cabin innovations.
The platform, known as the Airspace Connected Experience, was unveiled at APEX Expo last year. Airbus said: “It will usher in a new personalised experience for passengers and provide opportunities for improving airlines’ ancillary revenues and operational efficiencies.”
The Flight Lab is one of the original A350-900 certification flight-test aircraft (msn 2), which is now fitted with an Airspace cabin which now serves as the ideal platform to evaluate the new connected cabin technologies in flight.
An initial set of working elements has been installed. These include prototypes of the connected iSeat (Recaro), the Connected Galley (gategroup), a remote wireless cabin management control system, a large OLED display and importantly, the first step of Airbus’ new “IoT backbone” which includes an open software platform. These innovations are all now being tested in flight – together with others to be revealed in due course to customers.
Airbus said the added value for passengers, airlines and crews could include passengers receiving a more personalised travel experience specifically targeted to the individual needs and preferences, based on the available data. This covers pre-flight and remote ordering of preferred meals, booking of private bin space, setting of individual seat positions as well as a tailor-made inflight IFE offer.
Airbus said: “Airlines will be able to generate additional ancillary revenues through personalised retail and advertisement as well as new services, all enabled by the IoT approach. Furthermore, airlines will be able to improve their operational efficiency applying predictive maintenance, avoiding waste and making crew services more efficient. Other opportunities can easily be created and applied via apps.”
From an operational aspect Airbus said: “Crews will find a better working environment and more efficient tools, digitally enabled by real-time data from the IoT platform throughout the cabin. A mobile smart device will allow crews to monitor and operate all components.”
Airbus said the A350-900 Flight Lab tests follow initial workshops to create and prioritise innovative concepts and then an extensive phase of on-ground testing and customer evaluation of the connected elements.
The subsequent testing of these innovations in an Airbus Flight Lab environment is key to bringing an integrated Connected Experience to fruition – being able to validate and refine them in a real airborne cabin. In particular, the tests allow the various elements to be operated and monitored during a normal flight cycle, especially with regard to the end-to-end data flow robustness within the systems and between them. The next steps will continue testing of the current setup, then close the feedback loop with airlines using Airbus’ Customer Experience Teams forum, by around year-end.