Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Ushering in the age of the "Smart Cabin"
Ushering in the age of the "Smart Cabin"
Keywords: Aircraft industry, Cabins
The face of air travel is changing due to the rapid adoption of new technology and demands for enhanced services by a new breed of elite passengers. Advances in the aircraft cabin environment are also affecting the many, not just the few. If not that long back that LCD monitors replaced CRT screens, or that in-seat telephones and power points have become the norm on some carriers. And now, with real-time Internet access coming into service, the IFE revolution has just only begun.
Two companies that are doing much to push the boundaries of innovation in aircraft cabins – Lufthansa Technik and QinetiQ – believe that the era of the “Smart Cabin” has arrived.
“Smart Cabin is neither a far-fetched marketing concept, nor is it just about technological innovation. In fact, it is living recognition that the aircraft cabin interior is integral to brand development,” says Andrew Muirhead, Lufthansa Technik's manager Innovation Engineering.
QinetiQ business development manager David Howells agrees, adding: “The cabin systems market has changed significantly in recent years, with both the airlines and the suppliers challenging the received wisdom of how an aircraft interior should look. This has lead to certain, high-profile carriers spending more on new and unique products”.
In October 2003, Lufthansa Technik and QinetiQ signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the purpose of advancing a range of technology cabin system solutions in the executive and VIP jet market. Lightweight materials, security and surveillance systems, cabin acoustics and lighting are key technology areas covered by the MoU.
By combining Lufthansa Technik's unique combination of technical expertise, understanding of operational requirements and customer support, with QinetiQ's breadth of technical offerings, it is hoped that the two companies will vigorously grow their share of the cabin systems market, currently worth more than $3.5B p.a.
With its extensive work in the defence and aerospace arenas, QinetiQ has decades of accumulated knowledge in materials, structures, communications and security/surveillance systems. QinetiQ's partnership with Lufthansa Technik ideally positions it to jointly deliver comfort at reasonable cost, meet the vital demands of security and safety, while offering reliability as well as open architecture and system integration.
“These are the touchstone issues for this market which QinetiQ and LHT are uniquely placed to deliver,” says QinetiQ's David Howells.
The MoU follows Lufthansa Technik's launch of nice, nice stands for networked integrated cabin equipment and is designed to address the growing need for jet operators to offer integrated communications, nice will enable the provision of feature-rich services such as business communications and enhanced entertainment services (Plate 1).
Plate 1 nice™ - networked integrated cabin equipment: core of the system onboard a Boeing Business Jet 2
Speaking at the time of the signing of the MOU with QinetiQ, Lufthansa Technik's Bernhard Conrad, senior vice-president engineering and production completion center and head of approved design organisation, commented: This cooperation will enable us to integrate state-of-the-art technologies in our VIP and Executive Jets. With
“QinetiQ's experience and significant technology base we will strengthen our position as a worldwide Center of Excellence for VIP completions. Integrated cabin environments will have a bright future in business aviation within the forthcoming years. We are confident that by working closely with a leading partners we will be prominent in this market.”
QinetiQ in partnership with Ultra Electronics are also poised to combine active and passive technology to reduce a broad spectrum of aircraft cabin noise.
“Broadband noise”, which originates from the airflow over the fuselage of the aircraft, can be transmitted through the structure and panels into the aircraft interior. The Active Isolator Research for Aircraft Trim panels (AIRAT) system involves attaching aircraft trim panels to the airframe using a new hybrid mount that incorporates both active and passive elements. By attacking this transmission path and reducing the panel vibration, the new mounts can reportedly achieve substantial reductions in internal cabin noise levels.
Researched and developed by scientists at QinetiQ, this technology is the result of a 7-year study funded by the DTI. Laboratory tests performed on synthetic trim panels indicate an improvement in performance over existing mounts of at least 10 dB.
“It's no secret that noise can significantly decrease the overall comfort level for passengers and crewmembers,” says Ron Van Manen vice- president, Commercial Aircraft Programmes. “Airlines and customers are demanding lower interior noise levels, so aircraft manufacturers and retrofitters are searching for solutions”.
Mr Van Manen added: “Ultra Electronics is widely recognised as a major company involved in the active reduction of noise and vibration in aircraft cabins. By partnering with them and building on our experience in vibration isolation, QinetiQ has developed an innovative approach to isolating the vibration of all interior panels, structures and surfaces.”
Rob McDonald, vice-president of marketing and support at Ultra Electronics, says that AIRAT is a significant step toward the “Holy Grail” of airline travel: the removal of cabin noise. “Ultra Electronics is already transforming journeys on corporate and regional aircraft for tens of thousands of passengers worldwide.”
“With AIRAT, the promise of completely removing the adverse effects of noise comes even closer,” says McDonald. “We are committed to improving passenger comfort in all aircraft types. We recognise that today's traveller is no longer prepared to endure the extremes of noise and vibration which once characterised the aircraft industry”.
Passive isolation of the panel provides good performance at higher frequencies, however maintaining that performance at lower frequencies would involve a serious weight or size penalty. By combining passive and active technology, this low- frequency problem has now been resolved. Better still, the hybrid approach adopted provides the opportunity to optimise the passive element, with the focus now on its high frequency performance. This has led to an innovative design for that element. Combined with the active system, the new mount has the potential to provide reduced transmission compared with existing mounts over the entire range of audio frequencies.
Industry related experience
Ultra Electronics, the UK based aerospace and defence electronics group, already offers an innovative range of Active Noise and Vibration Control products based around the UltraQuiet system. The company has pioneered the introduction of practical systems into regular passenger service and now offers fully certified, affordable solutions for a variety of aircraft types. In 2000, the UltraQuiet Cabin, Active Noise and Vibration Control System, was awarded Millennium Product Status by the Design Council.
QinetiQ, Europe's leading science and technology solutions provider, has been developing a number of key innovations to address many of the long-standing discomforts faced by millions of air travellers around the world. Air filtration systems, non-absorbent materials, adaptive lighting systems and advanced communication systems which can provide cabin crew with valuable information concerning passenger needs and special requirements – these are just a handful of the technology solutions QinetiQ is providing to an airlines industry that is demanding differentiation and enhanced passenger services.
For further details, contact: QinetiQ. Tel: +44 1252 395 559; Fax: +44 1252 395 399. Lufthansa Technik AG. Tel: +49 40 5070 3667; Fax: +44 40 5070 8534.
Ultra Electronics Ltd. Tel: +44 (0) 1223 426699; Fax: +44 (0) 1223 426696.