Flight Control Systems and WAIC

The electronic components and wiring within an aircraft account for a considerable amount of space and overall weight. An average commercial airliner has a wire count of over 100,000, totaling up to 470 km of wires and a combined weight of 5,700 kg. Add an extra 30% of their weight that must also be incorporated due to the needed fixation structures, and you’ve got an excess weight problem begging for a solution. Wireless avionics intra-communications utilize radio communication systems that are installed on an aircraft, and they just might be the answer to the added load of electronic wiring components.

While wireless communication between an airport and grounded aircraft has been operational since 2016, wireless communication while in-flight is an old concept with renewed possibility. Wireless Avionics Intra-Communications (WAIC) has advanced thanks to the WAIC project. At the 2015 Radiocommunication conference, the collaboration of major companies within the aerospace industry led to the development of a worldwide radio frequency spectrum allocation for wireless avionics. It operates as a closed, exclusive network between two or more points on the aircraft, and is only used for intra-communication between electronics onboard. The system operates at low transmission power and offers a feasible replacement option for optimizing aircraft electronics.

Wiring routes for a wireless communication system would be reduced to redundant radio-links and specific route systems in the aircraft. As a result, the system would ideally mitigate any risks that a standard wiring configuration imposes. A major problem with traditional wiring is single point failure, which is often caused by corrosion, defect wiring, or cut wires in extreme cases. The more simplified configuration provided by a wireless system could aid in preventing some of these issues.

However, there are potential threats and risks associated with using a WAIC system. The most prominently considered and tested are the dangers of hacking and information breach. An aircraft wireless network can be compromised through a few well-known hacking methods. Replay attack, for example, involves a potential impersonator who retrieves a message on a secure network and replays it back to an original participant. The participant’s device may then recognize the playback as a genuine user and will exchange data.

Despite the pitfalls, there are many additional benefits that can be provided by a WAIC system. In the future, this system could feasibly replace existing communication systems used for proximity sensors, ice detection, brake speed, and position feedback components, etc. As a streamlined program, WAIC has the potential to standardize global licensing and operations requirements and provide a more harmonized technical communications system onboard. In order to do so, more research needs to be done on frequency interference between a wireless system and the radio frequencies of remaining communication components.

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