The latest iteration of Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program will use a 777 airliner to serve as a flying test bed for some 50 projects this year, the company announced Monday. During this latest phase of the ecoDemonstrator program, Boeing plans to test technologies dedicated to sharing digital information between air traffic control, the flight deck, and an airline’s operations center to aid routing efficiency and safety. Other tests involve an electronic flight bag application that uses next-generation communications to automatically provide rerouting information to pilots when weather conditions warrant; so-called connected cabin technologies that make galleys and lavatories “smart” and monitor cabin conditions such as temperature and humidity to facilitate automatic adjustments; and cameras to provide more passengers with a view outside the airplane.
More than a dozen partners participate in the 2019 program, including an industry consortium developing a connectivity standard for networked cabins of the future known as iCabin.
Plans call for flight tests to start this fall. The flights will include a trip to Frankfurt Airport in Germany, where Boeing will present the ecoDemonstrator’s technology mission to government officials, industry representatives, and STEM students to help inspire the next generation in aerospace leadership. A majority of the test flights will fly on sustainable aviation fuel to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and demonstrate the fuel’s viability.
“This is the latest addition to our ecoDemonstrator program, where we look at how crew and passengers can have a better experience and how technologies can make flying safer, more efficient and more enjoyable,” said Mike Sinnett, vice president of product strategy and future airplane development at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Using the 777 flying test bed lets us learn faster and move forward on improvements much quicker and with greater fidelity in defining their value.”
Boeing launched its ecoDemonstrator program in 2012. Five airplanes — a 737-800, a 787-8 Dreamliner, a 757, an Embraer E170 and a 777 Freighter — have tested 112 technologies through 2018. Boeing and program partners have applied more than a third of the technologies in commercially available products. Nearly half remain in further development while Boeing discontinued testing on the other projects.
Technologies now in use include iPad apps that provide real-time information to pilots, helping them reduce fuel use and emissions; custom approach path information to reduce community noise; and a camera system on the 777X that will help pilots avoid ground obstacles.