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Cellphones Handhelds Transportation Wireless Networking

Personal Electronics May Indeed Disrupt Avionics 505

mattrwilliams writes "There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence that points to personal electronics being a real issue on board planes. Dave Carson of Boeing, the co-chair of a federal advisory committee that investigated the problem of electronic interference from portable devices, says that PEDs radiate signals that can hit and disrupt highly sensitive electronic sensors hidden in the plane's passenger area, including those for an instrument landing system used in bad weather."
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Personal Electronics May Indeed Disrupt Avionics

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  • Re:Listening (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Moderator ( 189749 ) * on Thursday June 09, 2011 @02:00PM (#36391192)

    I had always heard that the real reason they make you turn off electronic devices is so that you listen fully to any instructions you are given. Why else would they make me turn off my wi-fi only Kindle?

    Maybe. I think that the "cellphone interference" is just a blanket term they use whenever anything goes wrong. When I was flying from PSP to DFW a few months ago, the flight attendants had already given the "turn off all electronic devices" thing followed by the safety brief, yet we still hadn't moved onto the runway. Instead of telling us what the hold up was, the flight attendant got on the intercom and said, "We would be on the runway right now, but somebody left their cell phone on and it's interfering with our signals." Lo and behold, about half the passengers pulled out their cell phones and turned them off. This was reverse psychology, shifting the blame to the passengers for the delay. Sad thing is, it worked.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 09, 2011 @02:01PM (#36391226)

    I had always been suspicious of the reality of small electronics and avionics interference, but now I have some first hand experience--I fly a small airplane (a Decathlon). Granted, it has much different RF characteristics than a large airliner. Like most airplanes, it is equipped with a transponder that encodes the airplane's altitude and transmits it when the air traffic control radar paints the airplane. Sometimes when my iPhone is turned on in the airplane, the altitude reported by my transponder varies wildly by several thousands of feet, and air traffic control tells me they are getting spurious signals. One day when this was happening, I thought ah heck and I turn off the phone, and the transponder settled down. I turned it back on, and the transponder started going wonky again. I've reproduced this on a few different days and most days with no issues with the phone turned on. I'd say it's 20% bad/80% good. I haven't figured out what conditions cause this to happen or not--could be poor equipment installation. Anyone else with actual experience of something like this happening?

  • Re:...really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AJH16 ( 940784 ) <aj&gccafe,com> on Thursday June 09, 2011 @02:06PM (#36391302) Homepage

    That's a nice image, but it's a standard rugadized pda. You can find similar hardware for doing work in factory environments and such where you potentially need to protect the electronics from more abuse than your average consumer electronics are designed to take. It really has nothing to do with preventing interference.

  • by bananaendian ( 928499 ) on Thursday June 09, 2011 @03:12PM (#36392304) Homepage Journal

    Here we go again, every couple of years an article relating to avionics interference shows up in slashdot and I have to come out of my cave to save the world...

    Here is something I wrote [slashdot.org] back in 2006 about this same issue.

    Just because you are 'an engineer' who 'works with RF' doesn't mean you know tiddly about avionics. I actually work at an avionics lab and repair and test these devices and have actually measured RF interference of avionics systems, both on the ground and in the air. Its my job.

    As a fellow engineer I could give you a 5 minute brief on how the ILS system works, another 15 to go through explaining all the board level receiver circuits, data busses and another 20 to go throught the navigation computer and autopilot at block diagram level - and afterwards you'd be rolling on the floor laughing to the very idea of a passenger ipod being able to interfere with 'the ILS system'... unfortunately my superiors are hunting me down to lock me back to my cave now.

    For others see what I wrote [slashdot.org] about Ultracrepidarianism [wikipedia.org]

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire