Qualcomm on Monday, Oct. 29, demonstrated a service that could allow major airlines to monitor cockpits and cabins in real-time from the ground. The service uses data links provided by Globalstar, a mobile satellite constellation operator.
As part of the demonstration, Irwin Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm, spoke to passengers and pilots in the air who could be viewed and heard in real-time via video cameras on board the airplane. The service includes a global positioning system unit that tracks the progress of an aircraft and sends voice and data information typically sent to the black box to the ground.
Jacobs couldnt reveal how much it might cost to deploy such systems, but he said that the goal was to make them as cost-effective as possible. He also said that the companies have been busy putting together the capability for the demo and hadnt yet seriously discussed it with any of the major airlines. "Weve had previous discussions with them, but aimed at supporting passengers. There was some interest, but not quite enough to get them to move quickly," he said. Qualcomm and Globalstar have tried to pitch an Internet access service for passengers on airplanes that didnt gain much interest among airlines.
Shortly after the attacks on Sept. 11, Iridium, another mobile satellite operator, submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration a proposal for a system that could also send real-time black box information to the ground.
Airlines have typically favored terrestrial-based communication systems because they are cheaper then satellite offerings and can address the bulk of all flights; 44 percent of all flights occur over North America, said Roger Rusch, president of consultancy TelAstra.