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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It's worth reading "Do Portable Electronics endanger flight" by T Perry & L Geppert
12/28/2011 4:59:26 PM
Before everyone jumps to the conclusion that portable electronic devices cannot possibly interfere with aircraft, it's worth reading an article published in IEEE Spectrum back in the late 90's. (Institute of Electrical Engineers magazine)
The article was based on a search of flight incidence reports submitted by flight crews to the ASRS database(Aviation Safety Reporting System) - basically the researchers search for keywords like "passenger electronics", "laptop" and turned up a bunch of reports submitted by flight crews of aircraft navigation systems being thrown off by the use of PEDs (Portable electronic devices).
Their conclusion is despite the assumption that the devices should be safe, (becuase the power is so low) there's empirical evidence that PEDs do indeed interfere with navigation systems. (ie. Pilots have reported commercial flights drifting off course).
The original article is archived, but this link has most of the text of the article.
Scroll down to "Do Portable Electronics Endanger Flight"
I can't vouch for that website - but the article is legit.
The conclusion back in the late 90's "electromagnetic emissions from the PEDs, which interfere with avionics systems, most commonly radio navigation and communications. Co-conspirators are the aluminium air-frame, which can act as a shield, a resonant cavity, or a phased array, and the sensitivities of the avionics. The radiation from the devices can couple to the avionics through the antennas, the wiring, or directly into the receiver."
So there are researchers out there who think the issue is real.
"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner
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