E-Reader Interference Results Challenge FAA Electronics Ban During Takeoff, Landing
December 27, 2011 7:20 AM
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According to researchers at EMT Labs, tablets and e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle do not pose much of a threat at all
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned airplane passengers' use of mobile electronics like
and Kindles during takeoff and landing due to interference, but recent results from EMT Labs challenge this ban and further raise the question, "Why not?"
Earlier this month, it was discovered that
the FAA decided to allow American Airlines pilots to use iPads
instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit. This raised a few eyebrows, since passengers are banned from using such electronic devices during takeoff and landing due to possible interference with sensitive airplane electronics.
Many wondered how the iPads would affect these important electronics when used so closely to such equipment, but the FAA justified the decision after conducting a test of the use of mobile electronics in the cockpit. It also said that having one iPad per pilot versus an iPad or Kindle for every passenger made a big difference in the level of interference.
The New York Times
now disagrees with the FAA's reasoning after taking a trip to EMT Labs, which is an independent testing facility in California that screens the electrical emissions from different gadgets.
According to researchers at EMT Labs, tablets and e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle do not pose much of a threat at all. The FAA has specified that a plane is only approved as safe if it can withstand up to 100 volts per meter of electrical interference; EMT Labs says an Amazon e-reader emits under 30 microvolts per meter when in use, which is 0.00003 of a volt.
"The power coming off a Kindle is completely miniscule and can't do anything to interfere with a plane," said Jay Gandhi, chief executive of EMT Labs. "It's so low that it just isn't sending out any real interference."
In addition, the FAA is apparently wrong when it comes to the "two tablets versus many" theory. EMT Labs argued that electromagnetic energy doesn't add up as more e-readers are used on the plane; rather, the "noise" from such gadgets decreases as more are used.
The FAA does allow gadgets such as voice recorders to be used during takeoff and landing, but as it turns out, a Sony voice recorder emits more electrical interference than a Kindle.
According to Bill Ruck, CSI Telecommunications' lead engineer, the FAA only bans tablets and e-readers during takeoff and landing because of "agency inertia and paranoia."
While the EMT Labs tests didn't provide specific results concerning iPads instead of e-readers, which are the devices in question regarding use in the cockpit during takeoff and landing, this is a solid first step in finding out why the FAA is really banning these gadgets.
The New York Times
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RE: Better safe than sorry
12/28/2011 2:26:44 PM
Truth: An iPad uses a Broadcom BCM4329 chip to manage its WiFi, Bluetooth, and FM radio TRANSMISSION and RECEPTION!
Even if we ignored the FM radio transmission capability, the receiving part of the chip could easily use a Superhetrodyne process to demodulate the received commercial FM radio station, and that process requires the chip to generate frequencies within the commercial aviation aircraft band.
That means there is a theoretical possibility that a passenger, like yourself, who, against all rules, is "innocently" listening to an FM radio station, is hindering the reception of the transmissions between the control tower and the pilot. We need Apple or Broadcom to tell us whether that possibility is real or not, and if they can't or won't, then the ban should stay until they can.
So what is the difference between a pilot using an iPad and a passenger using one? If the pilot is using an iPad, and it happens to be causing interference because he WAS listening to a local radio station with it, then (assuming he or she is aware an iPad could cause interference) all he needs to do is close down that application and the problem is solved. In addition, if the airline provided the iPads then they should have removed the FM radio application prior to issuing it to the pilot, and told her or him the reasons why.
On the other hand, trying to find which of the 30 or so tablet users on the plane is the cause of interference is quite another matter.
As such, if the WiFi chip in a tablet could cause a problem, then to be fair to all passengers and aircrew (who aren't expected to be trained on the inner workings of every tablet on the market), it is a whole lot easier and fairer to have a blanket ban that covers all tablets rather than having long lists of brands and models, some of which are banned and some which aren't.
"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki
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