This question comes in lieu because everytime you board a plane the crew announces that the passengers turn their phones off or use flight mode.

The core reason for this is the wireless adapters in a typical smart phone might affect the Navigation and Other On-Board Systems situated in the Cockpit.

It would be rather an exceptional challenge to find a wireless band which can be used in the field of Wireless Sensor Networks.

Is there any research done in finding optimal bands that do not interfere with the systems and could present IoT in Aviation as a strong application?

2 Answers 2


Is there any research done in finding optimal bands that do not interfere with the systems and could present IoT in Aviation as a strong application?

Wireless Avionics Intra-Communications (WAIC), a wireless communication system researched by AVSI (Aerospace Vehicle Systems Institute) is being developed to replace complex cabling with wireless in avionics. As per available material, the frequency band 4200 - 4400 MHz is the allocated band for the WAIC system.

Some key examples of Potential WAIC Safety Applications

  • Smoke Detection
  • Fuel Tank/Line
  • Proximity Temperature
  • EMI Incident Detection
  • Humidity/Corrosion Detection
  • Cabin Pressure
  • Emergency Lighting
  • Ice Detection
  • Landing Gear (Position Feedback, Brake Temperature, Tire Pressure, Wheel Speed, Steering Feedback)
  • 1
    Very interesting, so the very tricky part of allocating a worldwide frequency is already done :) Remains just the technical implementation ;)
    – Helmar
    Mar 30, 2018 at 10:24

I guess the most accepted one today is Wi-Fi—for passengers. The IATA, the FAA and most international counter-parts have lifted the Wi-Fi regulations in flight a while back. Since then the carriers have moved to add in-flight Wi-Fi as a business model themselves.

The reason we're asked to use phones in flight mode is basically that phones are not build for planes. Even our supposed smart phones are pretty stupid in that regard. Basically, they always try to connect to the next cell tower. If they cannot reach a cell tower they up the amps so to speak and broadcast with more power to reach a cell tower anyways. Since cell towers are not reachable by any cell phone with any degree of transmitting power that leads to two things. Our batteries dying faster due to higher transmitting power usage and all the interference from all the phones blasting their desperate calls to reach a cell tower.

Generally all plane hardware is shielded against interference and shutting down these gadgets is an exercise in caution. As one pilot puts it:

Smith says: "Can cellular communications really disrupt cockpit equipment? The answer is potentially yes, but in all likelihood no, and airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are merely erring on the better-safe-than-sorry side."

He continues: "Aircraft electronics are designed and shielded with interference in mind. This should mitigate any ill effects, and to date there are no proven cases of a phone adversely affecting the outcome of a flight. But you never know."

So both common sense and experts more or less agree that it's not as critical as the safety announcements make it to be. Especially if you would use low powered communication. The question is likely more if those low powered communication with your IoT sensors would be drowned out by all the smart phones acting in common stupidity blasting the airwaves.

Furthermore, everything in an airplane is wired anyways. There are 60-70 miles of wiring in the Boeing 787. So your sensor is very unlikely to be far from the next wire. Of course you could save a lot of weight without cables, but then again you cannot properly shield wireless connections against stupid passengers leaving their phones on and all the others merrily using the new shiny Wi-Fi.

It seems to me that keeping the stuff that keeps the plane flying wired is a very wise decision.

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