There are technologies being discussed to improve crash location technologies. They are improvements to the ULB battery life, an additional low frequency ULB. Another technology is ADS-B which monitors aircraft position. Crash deployable flight recorders are also being considered as well as streaming flight data via a satellite. Let’s us take a closer look at each technology.
There are several improvements to ULB technology in progress. ULB Battery Life is in the process of being extended from 30 days to 90 days. There will be an additional ULB attached to the fuselage which will broadcast at a lower frequency which increases the range the beacon can be heard. In light of the MH370 tragedy and the lingering doubt over whether the ULB heard was the ULB attached to the aircraft I suspect we will see a simple identification code such as a serial number added to the sound waveform of a ULB which would not be technically difficult. Unfortunately the requirement for the 90 day battery takes effect in March of 2015 and the requirement for the low frequency fuselage attached ULB will take place in 2018. Also the regulations at the present time do not require retrofitting so considering a 6 year life the last 30 day ULB may not be replaced until 2021. The cost of upgrading to a 90 day battery because of special transport rules adding to the expense of this upgrade (Federal Aviation Administration). While progress is being made in this area it will be at a slow pace. In addition nothing is being done to improve the survivality or the quality of the ULB design
The Future Air Navigation System (FANS) and ADS-B are systems where commercial aircraft transmit identification, current position, heading, altitude, and velocity, digitally through an onboard transmitter as discussed earlier. “On 30 June 2010. . . This rule requires ADS-B Out performance when operating in designated classes of airspace within the NAS after 1 January 2020” (Universal Avionics). There is however considerable concern over the FAA meting the 2020 deadline by the “The greatest risks to successfully implementing ADS-B are airspace users’ reluctance to purchase and install new avionics for their aircraft and FAA’s ability to define requirements for the more advanced capabilities” (DOT Office of Inspector General) and “FAA has never managed such a large effort to equip commercial aircraft” (DOT Office of Inspector General).
The US Military has had crash Deployable Flight Recorders (DFR) for over twenty years with 110 crashes and 110 successful deployments. In addition to crash data the device incorporates an ELT which broadcasts the aircraft serial number (Werfelman, Thinking outside the black box).
Streaming data is another technology that has been popularly suggested for use in Locating and accessing FDR information. After all if we can stream movies in high definition why can’t we do the same with the FDR data? In light of the AF447 tragedy there has been a...