Airborne Internet and Oshkosh 2003

By Jim Meer, Microflight  Aug 7, 2003

The Airborne Internet display for Oshkosh was initially designed to be a part of the NCAM trailer.  In fact the shelves and support for the demonstration were built into the trailer.  The trailer format changed somewhat to be a video show with the simulator in the middle.  Given that the Airborne Internet display was more technology and hardware that would better displayed in an atmosphere that provided for extended conversations, the trailer was of limited value.  

The Airborne Internet display was placed in the NASA North building along with other NASA GA research projects.  The AI display was at the top of the circle where people circulated.   With this extensive visibility 100's of people read the panels explaining the AI and took explanatory white papers, brochures and an Airborne Internet flyer that announced the web site and the timing of next meetings

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Of those who stopped and inquired further, many were engineers as well as pilots with many being from telecommunications industries.  One individual was a recent retiree from Northern Telecom that had tried to sell the notion of the Internet to AT&T in 1968 and was told there was not and would not likely be a market for the Internet.  Another gentlemen was from the Rockwell Collins test facility and was very impressed that a low cost solution had been identified that used the same basis for communications that Rockwell was using in their new switched Ethernet -- TCP/IP.  One person was from the EAA Advisory Board, an older gentleman who did not have a background in digital communications.  He asked questions for over half an hour and finally said that he now understood why the Airborne Internet was so important.   

While these are only anecdotes, they demonstrate the visibility that the AI received at a place like Oshkosh where there is a wide diversity of understanding about the need for digital communications to aircraft and the technologies that make it possible.  Having the opportunity to meet with individuals that have not previously seen or were aware of the advancements, helped to refine our own understanding of what is important and being better able to articulate it.  The fundamentals that emerged were that the Airborne Internet was committed to identifying low cost commercial technology that could be applied to aviation.  Second, the Airborne Internet Collaboration Group provided a forum for individuals and companies to share their ideas for technology research and development and identify potential resources to facilitate further development toward commercial products.  Most importantly, the display panels and the conversations confirmed the strong attractor in the use of the name "Airborne Internet."  

The words,  "Airborne Internet," were not intimidating and were generally understood by those who approached us.  With that basic understanding and their realization that what the AI was doing was different from the world wide web.  This difference provided a point of departure for their questions and ultimately provided them with a better understanding of how the world wide web technologies and services became the basis for the Airborne Internet.

Due to the conditions of flying at Oshkosh, other potential uses of the Airborne Internet surfaced.  First it was very difficult to communicate with Greenbay Flight Service for weather briefings and filing flight plans due to the load.  At one point there were over 12000 airplanes at Oshkosh -- nearly 6% of the entire GA fleet.  It would seem that there would be a better load leveling technique with other FAA flight service stations.  

Even then each individual perceives weather differently based upon individual understandings and individual differences in skill and perception.  An area of development for the AI would be provide an individual profile for a pilot that would indicate the products and services he or she uses to gain perspective about the weather.  Further these profiles could be generalized for training and evaluation of pilot skills.  However, ultimately pilots perceive the weather differently from one another and they should be allowed to use the products and graphical displays that correlate well to the actual weather as they perceive. it.

Next, not being able to go over the weather or around it will continue to be an impediment to the wide spread use of general aviation.  The weather is not going to change but the technology to accurately identify turbulence and other undesirable conditions are rapidly becoming available.  Incorporation of turbulence application products provided on the ground and from and to the airplane are critical to the acceptance of SATS aircraft by the general public.  No one likes to get bumped around for extended periods.  Perhaps this is part of the reason  passenger jets became such a rapid success.

Finally, ATC procedures and compliance are a major impediment to general population's use of SATS aircraft.  ATC procedures are only a symptom.  Technology applications that use the Airborne Internet could be developed to greatly reduce the anxiety and actual violations in the National  Air Space.    

Going forward the AICG should consider integration with the NCAM trailer or at least demonstrations in conjunction with the trailer.  The value of this association resides in the recognition that the AI gains in the context of SATS.  Also, by having the AI demonstration similar to what was accomplished at the ICNS conference, the SATS program will gain more visibility as well.

In conclusion, the opportunity afforded the AICG at Oshkosh was significant and should other opportunities be offered similar to Oshkosh, the AICP would greatly benefit from the exposure and better understanding of the impact and benefits of the Airborne Internet.

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Copyrightę2003 Ralph Yost, All Rights Reserved.