Diehl Aviation has developed a new cabin management system that will serve as the baseline central control panel for nearly all aircraft functions related to the cabin.
Like most CMSs, the system — dubbed CANSAS for ‘cabin area network system and services’ — provides the interface for flight attendants to monitor and manage cabin lighting, intercommunication devices (like passenger call buttons), galley and lavatory controls, or cabin functions like fire protection and water waste systems.
But the modular, open-platform CANSAS can do “much more”, explained Diehl technical project manager Marcel Schmedes in a recent interview with Runway Girl Network. To wit, the system can integrate with third-party applications. It can also facilitate complex cabin lighting and projection scenarios, predictive health management, integrated video surveillance and wireless seat monitoring.
“We’re trying to identify the use cases which would be the most interesting for our customers,” said Schmedes. “What we see is a trend for optimizing operations. For example, for the maintenance report and repair operations of an airline, it’s easy to quantify some benefits…if you can record errors much earlier, you can better plan your operations. Also, you will have support for the crew to deliver messages from the cabin directly to the operation center.”
CANSAS aims to improve the passenger experience through new functions in the cabin, while optimizing crew processes through improved availability of information for cabin and maintenance crew. Image: Diehl Aviation
Such a platform could, for instance, allow crew members to know right away if seats are in the upright position for takeoff and landing and if everyone is buckled in, whilst data from smart galleys could help reduce food wastage.
In time, Schmedes visualizes a fully integrated digital cabin platform that could incorporate passenger experience features through smart seats and inflight entertainment (IFE) systems, ensuring, for example, that goods ordered onboard are delivered to the gate at the arrival airport, or enabling car and hotel bookings through biometric identity as confirmed in-flight. This, in turn would open new revenue streams for airlines.
The CANSAS cabin network has the core systems needed to make aircraft smarter. In keeping with industry’s push towards IoT of the cabin, it features a high-speed Gigabit backbone network for data transfer, attendant panels and wireless sensors, and a distributed system whose scalable architecture is adaptable to aircraft size and varying LOPAs (layout of passenger accommodations).
In order to fully exploit this type of architecture, however, Diehl believes there needs to be a universal standard for aircraft and cabin data exchange, allowing different systems to work together seamlessly while protecting sensitive airline, supplier, and passenger data.
To that end, the German company is working with other industry stakeholders on the OpsTimal Research Project, sponsored by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The project brings together experts from industry and universities to create interoperable systems that will collect, reconcile, and deliver diverse, complex data points from smart aircraft and smart cabin systems, and other operational data in a manageable and secure way. Partners in OpsTimal include Jeppesen, Rolls-Royce, MTU Aero Engines, SAP, and Lufthansa.
The OpsTimal collaborators are working on four deliverable work packages: flight plan and trajectory, predictive maintenance, turnaround and crew, and an algorithm that can optimize and combine the data of various subsystems in a manageable way for airline ops teams and partners to process.
“We identified some fundamental properties, which we think are now more important than ever. The first one is interoperability. We work with different partners in research collaborations on the best way to generate one cabin communications template. So, you can exchange information for various monuments and suppliers and components, which is very important for cabin upgrades, innovation cycles, or just the retrofit of cabins,” Schmedes told RGN.
The other aspect of interoperability is integrating with larger-scale ecosystems, which many airline operators have already established or are establishing right now. For example, to see data brokerage to the ground, which informs MRO operations in advance, or at the right moment, when something breaks. That helps to optimize the turnaround times further, spare parts, and so on.
Also critical to interoperability is security — both cyber security and data security. If passengers provide personal data to get a more individualized travel experience, they want to ensure that their data is always in good hands and protected according to regulatory requirements. On the other hand, if a supplier should provide prognostics for a special part in the cabin, they also want their data to be secure and access to that data for product improvements.
Because interoperability demands a safe means for the delivery of the data, said Schmedes, what Diehl is doing right now in tandem with partners is establishing “constant, trustworthy, secure mechanisms which guarantee that we’ll be able to exchange data from point A to the ground, to the aircraft, or within the aircraft”.
Diehl has developed the final prototype of CANSAS, which is ready for qualification. “We have the units available in laboratories, and we are working on the software integration to test the technical part,” said the Diehl executive. “On a higher level, we’re taking a very close look at the different use cases we have in the cabin for the various stakeholders, including crew, passengers, maintenance, and repair and overhaul operations on the ground.”
Diehl is also working with other customers and partners, including the Boeing ecoDemonstrator program, to develop the CANSAS platform further to suit the industry’s evolving need for more efficient operations.
Eliminating operational inefficiencies has become considerably more urgent with the airline industry’s pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as announced during this year’s IATA AGM.