Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

ALC Report Summary

Project ID: 737645
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.4.5.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ALC (Aircraft Light Communication)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

As part of a global effort to progress towards the “connected aircraft”, operators around the world are deploying connectivity solutions on their aircraft (A/C) to keep up with the passengers’ demand while ensuring optimal A/C operational performance. Connectivity in the cockpit is also crucial to support operations and related pilot decision-making. Most pilots are now looking for performant wireless headsets to replace wired headsets, known for causing pains (head, shoulder, back) and reducing mobility, especially for long-haul flights.

Current wireless communication connected devices in A/C are WiFi and Bluetooth. Although efficient, these solutions have severe drawbacks such as security (hacking) and reliability (wireless networking signals are subject to interferences and complex propagation effects). LiFi communication is today the most promising candidate to overcome these drawbacks as it:
- Provides a secured mode of communication by transmitting data through a light beam,
- Guarantees no interference with other electronic devices.

ALC will prove the concept of secured, performant and robust wireless connection based on light (LiFi) by designing and developing TRL5 ground tests prototypes easing flight crew operations. To demonstrate this, ALC will need to overcome three main challenges:
1) Reduce the current consumption of the actual LiFi dongle to save battery and increase autonomy of connected devices for long-haul flights, keeping the weight and size of the devices in mind.
2) Improve the connection robustness to comply with the severe environment of a cockpit. In an A/C, the luminous flux of the sun saturates photodiodes, while in the cockpit, the light is sometimes switched off, interrupting the connection. Abnormal conditions such as smoke could also render the communication inoperative.
3) Demonstrate data security to avoid any eavesdropping as well as attacks.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

This first period was initially expected to focus on specifications but, given the complexity of the applications and the constraints imposed by AIRBUS’ requirements, the prototype development was anticipated. The first months were used to specify audio headset and tablet applications on a functional point of view. Most critical aspects were addressed and specified, in particular:
- Optical implementation: wavelength selection (XLIM and PURELIFI); cockpit optical integration, derived with 3D optical model of light propagation in the cockpit (XLIM)
- Protocol definition for the audio headset: given the constraint of low audio latency, FACTEM has developed a proprietary protocol for TRL4; in parallel XLIM has started to study the implementation on an IEEE 802.11 basis, to assess the achievability of low latency with a standard solution.

After 12 months, the design specifications of audio headset and tablet were delivered. First hardware and software integration are also already available. Activities on the third ALC project application, the connected headset, officially started after six months. A feasibility study helped identify the best locations for biometric sensors on the headset, and the data-rate needed to transmit biometric data was calculated and provisioned in the audio headset protocol. Intensive creativity work also took place. Brainstorming sessions were organised and led to no less than 149 ideas for LiFi applications in the cockpit or cabin. 28 ideas were downselected and 5 were finally selected by AIRBUS.

An assessment of critical implementation aspects of LiFi technology in the A/C was initiated: security strategies and associated measures were identified. Coexistence of several applications in the cockpit was also addressed with possible strategies specified to be validated at TRL4. Finally, evolution of light communication standards was performed by PURELIFI, as leader of the IEEE 802.11 LC task group.

Most significant results achieved so far are:
Audio headset:
o Architecture of audio application
o Detailed design of the access point
o Protocol to meet low audio latency requirement with 4 headsets
o 3D Optical model of application in the cockpit

Tablet:
o Architecture and detailed design of the tablet application
o First in-lab prototype

Connected headset:
o First integration of health monitoring sensor on a headset
o Detailed protocol developed jointly with the audio headset team

Other applications:
o 149 ideas, downselected to 28
o Ideas portfolio and 28 evaluation sheets
o Technical/financial evaluation of 5 pre-selected ideas

LiFi technology in A/C evaluation:
o Good knowledge of future light communication standards
o Identification of security measures for LiFi audio headset and tablet and strategies to enable their coexistence

Management, dissemination and exploitation
o Contract management
o Set up of ALC management rules and associated tools
o Technical coordination
o Several dissemination activities

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

ALC aims to prove that LiFi connection can successfully replace radio waves for wireless communication in an A/C. ALC will adapt existing LiFi technology to the demanding environment of a cockpit and A/C and work around its current limitations. Expected outcomes are:

Development of wireless connected devices and applications adapted to an A/C
- Audio headset: ALC will develop an autonomous LiFi wireless headset with low consumption and no extra weight, suppressing the need for wired connections in the cockpit.
- Electronic Flight Bag Tablet: A LiFi wireless tablet will allow flight crews to perform a variety of functions traditionally accomplished by using paper references (flight planning calculations, operations manual, etc.).
- Connected headset: It will integrate both audio connection and data transmission, and will be beneficial for security aspects and to detect any pilot health issues.
ALC will investigate one or more other potential LiFi applications, e.g. for cabin in-flight entertainment or for communication between air and ground crew.

Improvement of operational performance
- Improved security: LiFi transmits data through a light beam, making impossible any attempt of hacking and/or external control taking.
- Improved reliability: LiFi is free of electromagnetic interference and guarantees no interference and perturbation with other electronic devices.
- Improved performance/efficiency: LiFi allows the use of a wide, unlicensed, free-to-use spectrum. As it is interference-free, LiFi can achieve about 1000 times the data density of Wi-Fi at very high data rates, with fewer components and negligible additional power.
- Improved mobility: Fully secured, reliable and high-performing wireless connectivity will remove the need for wired headsets for pilots and will allow crew members to use connected devices everywhere in the A/C.
- Affordable solution: More wireless LiFi connection means a reduction of electrical wiring, leading to less weight and fuel consumption, less harness fabrication complexity and the suppression of connector replacement costs.
- Suppression of health hazards: As LiFi relies on visible light, it will have no impact on the health of the crew and passengers compared to other wireless radiofrequency technologies (e.g. electromagnetic sensitivity). Wireless headsets will suppress the pilots’ pains and stress due to wired headset, which can be critical especially for operations where the safety margin is already low (e.g. take-off or landing operations).
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