The week in cloud: Former NTSB officials say cloud-based aircraft data would streamline search missions.

As searchers from more than two dozen countries continue to look for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, some transportation experts are calling for a revamp of the traditional black box flight recorder, recommending that at least some key flight data be transmitted from aircraft to the cloud.

Clearly there are expenses and technology hurdles to be overcome. Streaming all that data from plane to some sort of database would be expensive, but periodically sending key snippets might not be cost prohibitive, experts told Reuters last week.

Mark Rosenker, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and a retired U.S. Air Force General, said the latest aviation mishap, along with the loss five years ago of Air France flight 447 in the Atlantic, should spur reform of an antiquated investigation process.

The availability of even limited data from the black box and cockpit voice recordings could speed up accident inquiries and locate a plane in trouble if it’s beyond the reach of ground-based radar, he noted.

Oliver McGee, another former NTSB official, concurred, telling Reuters that it’s time “to move the black box to the cloud at least for essential limited flight recorder data for long flights over [over remote areas].” More here from McGee.

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Gearing up for a big week in cloud

Stay tuned for a ton o’ cloud news this coming week, with dueling San Francisco events — Google Platform Live on Tuesday, AWS Summit on Wednesday, and a Satya Nadella-headlined Microsoft confab about the intersection of mobility and cloud on Thursday. Oh, and a Pivotal  platform-as-a-service chalk talk for good measure.

Whether there’s a ton of news is almost beside the point. These vendors are in full-fledged land grab (cloud grab?) mode now.

More cloud news

Red Hat taps once-skeptical Gartner analyst to lead OpenStack push

Amazon Web Services: What’s it worth?

Cloud Computing is still in its early days: Amitabh Srivastava, EMC

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user Auckland Photo News Rodger McCutcheon

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  1. Nicholas Constant Sunday, March 23, 2014

    What a concept!

  2. I think this is a great idea!

  3. Md. Tauseef Anwar Sunday, March 23, 2014

    I had a debate on Facebook with my friends over this concept few days into the MH370 incident. Let’s see what they say about it now!

    According to one, the benefits of such a system ( I even proposed video footage/snap shots being streamed to a cloud) would not be able to overcome the costs. And secondly, according to him, one or two incidents don’t justify complete overhaul of the current systems. Apparently no buy-in for airlines.

    I think after 3 weeks, if we are still looking for cost-benefit analysis or buy-ins, we are just crazy.

  4. mclarenfan1968 Sunday, March 23, 2014

    The transmitter can be switched off just like circuit breakers are available for the crew to pull in order to isolate a fire or problem in a real situation. It again comes down to the question ‘can someone switch it off?’.

    If the answer ‘yes’, then whatever ideas you propose regardless of cost, it is USELESS.

    1. You’re probably right !

    2. mclarenfan1968 is spot on. It comes down to cost. There are “n” number of tickets offered to you for your next flight. You can spend an addition $10 on your ticket and I’ll improve the data that flows to the world in the 1 in 10,000,000 chance that something goes wrong with your A/C – OR – you can accept a lower price ticket.

      GIven this value proposition – What do you think the overwhelming majority of todays paying pax will opt to do?

      These ideas are with merit and address the frustration of those of us who seek answers but – they completely ignore the very challenging economic realities of the airline business (post deregulation).

    3. That’s assuming that the actions of MH 370’s crew were deliberate. What if they were not?

  5. Jim Haughwout Sunday, March 23, 2014

    The problem is that airplanes cannot connect to “the cloud” when they are more the 12 miles off-shore because there are no cell phone towers. The only option at this point (with existing infrastructure) is SATCOM.

    Unfortunately this is very expensive. Short data bursts cost $0.14-$0.18 each. “Black Boxes” record an enormous amount of data and would be cost prohibitive. Also, SATCOM is lossey: packets are often dropped.

    There is an interesting side idea. Use Titan Drones to set up high-speed networks across the ocean (http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/03/facebook-in-talks-to-acquire-drone-maker-titan-aerospace/). At 65,000′ each would be able to cover about a 300-mile radius of higher-speed communications. It would be a lot of infrastructure to set up. However, we could then we call all use WiFi on transoceanic flights and seagoing voyages (and planes and ships could send location and other data much more easily and cost-effectively.

    1. Jim, I do agree there are implementation headaches but no one thought of real time share of the flight data recorder even after all the major accidents.
      We are talking of putting humans on Mars and we can not have real time data feed of in flight information? Obviously it is not impossible. Technology exists and the cost could have been a factor. But it is time we do get this resolved.

    2. The whole point of black box recorders is they record critical data for the flight and are unstoppable. why was the radar location system switched of on the plane? if you could do that the surely unplugging a cloud connection assuming you could actually make one could likewise be switched off. Then there is the Inmarsat system that picked the plane up why? this indicates it had been activated. This is not normal it is supposed to be a maritime location system activated when it hits sea water. The whole story is still being hidden.

      1. Inmarsat is the network operator for ACARS which is a data/maintenance reporting mechanism for commercial A/C. Unfortunately, Malaysia Airlines did not subscribe to this service, so the data feed was non-existent in the case of MH370. However, the transmitter for this service appears to have been in the aircraft it’s network “keep alive” signal was pinging the Inmarsat network periodically. Using this signal, we were able to determine that MH370 had to be in the air for at least another 7 hours from the time its transponders were disabled. Fred is confusing this ACARS network with the ELT crash detection mechanism.

    3. right — the issue here is clearly expense…. and hardening whatever satellite connection so it cannot be tampered with or shut off.

    4. Commercial A/C would never connect to the cloud via “cell phone towers”.

  6. We live in a wired / mobile everywhere 21st century world and we don’t have a shred of evidence on the aircraft whereabouts even after 12 days. Ridiculous situation. Having flight data recorder information real time in a private cloud ( to avoid misuse) is not just the need but also common sense solution.

    1. Philip van den Braak – (Brown) Jay Sunday, March 23, 2014

      I agree completely. But we also have to keep commercial aviation affordable – right?

  7. Alex Solomon Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Exactly what I was thinking. Store information from the cockpit which is triggered from voice or movement. After the plane lands at its destination, it can all be deleted after 3 days. I am not saying this would serve as a replacement for a blackbox, because it still has very useful features but it will act as a backup in cases like this one.
    There has to be some positive cost advantages associated with cloud storage, we just have to figure out what they are and send them to the airlines or FAA to make it a requirement.

  8. Much cheaper and simpler Idea, Just don’t let Pilots have the ability to turn off their ACARS when in flight… That’s a simple code into the current system where if the speed of the aircraft is over the stall speed (this means its flying) it cant be turned off…

  9. Jarosław Kamirski Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Aren’t black boxes already in the cloud ? ;)

    1. Duh. Brilliant idea! From someone who watches all the Mayday shows on YT =D

  10. Muhammad Adeel Javed Sunday, March 23, 2014

    I have incorporated some more suggestions in my article MH370: Misfortune or Lack of Technology.


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