Future Cabin Technologies: Is Your Jet Ready?

Having explored the unseen challenges of installing multiple USB ports into business aircraft cabins, Chris Kjelgaard highlights future cabin technologies that could change the cabin power usage picture. Aircraft owners and operators, be prepared!

Chris Kjelgaard  |  24th August 2022
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    Chris Kjelgaard
    Chris Kjelgaard

    Chris Kjelgaard has been an aviation journalist for more than 40 years and has written on multiple topics...

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    USB-Outlets installed in a Bombardier Global Express Jet

    High demand on business jets’ electrical power systems is only set to grow with the introduction of emerging cabin technologies highlighted here. The message is clear: it’s vital for owners and operators to review their options for enabling their systems to cope.

    According to Bill Stone, Senior Manager for Aviation Business Development at Garmin International, future electronics technologies which use more power than today’s technologies, or which are functionally different from and additive to current cabin electronics systems, could appear in aircraft cabins.

    In some cases, this will occur after first being introduced in the consumer electronics market. Nevertheless, they could change the cabin power-usage picture, he suggests.

    In that respect, the widening adoption by aircraft owners of cabin USB rapid-charging ports may herald a future in which electrical power usage in the cabin grows to levels greater than those of today.

    Duncan Aviation’s Avionics Sales Representative Adrian Chene thinks it’s very likely that in the not-too-distant future any one, or all, of a clutch of new cabin electronics technologies could become widely used in business aircraft and any of them could increase the existing total cabin power requirement.

    In some cases, those technologies might mature to become less power-hungry than the older cabin electronics systems they displace — but in other cases they might just add to the cabin’s overall electrical power need.

    Five different technologies, each requiring as much or more electrical power than the existing system it might replace, appear particularly strong candidates for future cabin adoption, according to Chene.

    High-End Audio: First is the known trend of owners increasingly contracting MRO facilities to install very high-end cabin audio systems in their aircraft. While the loudspeakers in such systems may be more efficient than previous-generation speakers on a watt-for-watt basis, the extremely pure sound reproduction capabilities such audio systems offer throughout the entire cabin can still require sizable amounts of electrical power to drive them.

    Noise Cancellation: A second, somewhat related technology that may or may not be feasible in the aircraft-cabin context could be the advent of part-cabin or whole-cabin noise cancellation, to reduce the aerodynamic and engine noise that passengers in Business Aircraft cabins now experience.

    Chene posits one way which possibly could be adopted to provide cabin noise cancellation could be installation of sound transducers behind the cabin wall panels, like those now used by Bongiovi Acoustic Labs to vibrate such panels to provide cabin audio content.

    Instead of producing sound frequencies unilaterally, such transducers could be rigged with microphones to generate and output sound signals containing frequencies exactly opposite to the ambient aircraft and cabin frequencies picked up by the mikes, far faster than any latency delay the human ear could detect.

    In that way the transducers would work exactly like the microphones and speakers in personal noise-cancelling headphones, completely flattening the sound frequencies from aerodynamic and engine noise.

    Bendable Flat-Panel Video Screens: A third technology Chene reckons could be introduced into Business Aircraft cabins in the fairly near term is development of large, bendable flat-panel video screens capable of wrapping around part, or all, of the fuselage cross-section.

    Such screens could display camera views of the sky below, around and above the aircraft, making passengers almost feel they were traveling through the air on a magic carpet with no solid aircraft structure around them.

    Air Sterilization Systems: Fourth in Chene’s potential new cabin-technologies list is a cabin air sterilization system much faster-acting than the relatively new plasma ionization air-filtration system now being introduced into various business aircraft.

    Instead of using hydrogen and oxygen ions derived from water to disable and kill pathogens and remove dust particles from the cabin air (as plasma ionization does), this other existing technology would instead use very narrow- band ultraviolet light to destroy within a second or two any single-celled and viral organisms in the cabin air.

    The UV light would be of a frequency not perceptible to the human eye, and unable to penetrate and damage human epidermal layers, but able to kill small pathogens instantly.

    In an aircraft cabin, such a system would kill a virus particle emitted by someone sneezing, even before the particle could travel to the person sitting nearest the person who sneezed, says Chene. The system hasn’t yet been FAA type-certificated for aircraft use, but it is FDA-approved and could see FAA approval soon.

    Sensory Technology: Fifth and last in Chene’s speculative list is a sensory technology which could serve not only to control the functioning of several of the previously discussed innovations but revolutionize the jobs of flight attendants in Business Aircraft.

    Chene says several aircraft OEMs are already working to develop systems that by various sensory means would be able to measure the stress responses of passengers to levels of cabin temperature, humidity, noise, light, air movement, etc. and allow flight attendants to adjust cabin levels in ways that would help to reduce passenger stress.

    “The immersive [cabin] environments that we think are likely to happen are going to be power-hungry,” says Chene. And that is just a starting point for how he thinks business aircraft and the private aviation experience will evolve in the future — an evolution which could see the need for yet more electrical power being provided to the cabin.

    “Vendors need to leapfrog [cabin] technologies over just transferring home entertainment to aircraft, to something a lot more inspiring,” he says. Augmented-reality technologies and technologies such as transparent OLED video panels are needed, “to inspire people and give them a sense of the lifestyle they’re enjoying” as passengers on board business aircraft.

    That sense of ease and luxury, and the relaxation, stress minimization and productivity it will help passengers achieve, will contribute greatly to the perceived, and actual, value of Business Aviation for all associated with it.

    Did you miss Part 1 of this article? Read Installing USBs in BizJets: An Unexpected Challenge

    More information from:
    Duncan Aviation: www.duncanaviation.aero
    Garmin: www.garmin.com

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