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IFE systems, LED lights and complicated, electrically actuated seats are standout features of the modern cabin, however there are bigger drains of electrical power. Paul E Eden speaks to Embraer

Inflight entertainment and connectivity are among the dominating factors in airliner cabin design, in some cases adding hundreds of screens, passenger interaction points and power outlets to seat backs. That they complicate cabin electrical system configurations is inevitable, yet they are not the primary energy consumer. Step forward to business class and beyond, and the IFE works in concert with the electrically actuated comfort of convertible seats and other gadgetry, poseable reading lights and individual suites. All of which places further demands on electrical system design, but does not add up to create the major consumer.


In fact, the galley has been the primary drain on cabin electrical power since full galley installations became standard equipment from the Douglas DC-3 onwards. With an eye firmly on the recently certificated E2, an Embraer spokesperson explained: “Internet connectivity, the cabin management system, seat power, and water and waste systems are all part of the cabin electrical system. The provisions for each have evolved as the technology of individual systems has advanced, bringing changes to wiring and signals requirements.


Systems including IFEC can benefit from standardised provisions, including wiring and buses, providing benefits in flexibility, lower development cycles and lower installation lead times. Delivering common smart and modular provisions from multiple suppliers is among the E2 IFEC product strategies.”


While few would argue for a return to the retractable overhead IFE screens of the past, the latest systems raise new challenges. “Overhead screens were used because there was no way of installing displays on seats. With the advent of LCD technology, smaller displays could be manufactured, allowing seat integration and providing every passenger their own display and content control, the AVOD [advertising video on demand] model.


“Having a display and additional controls on every seat does demand more power and adds weight, not to mention increasing cost, compared to the option of employing fewer overhead displays. More recently, however, we have seen a trend towards bring your own device, or BYOD. Content is distributed wirelessly in the cabin, allowing passengers to access entertainment through their personal electronic devices.” Potentially simplifying wiring and electrical requirements while at the same time delivering quality IFE, the BYOD solution is among the E2 IFEC portfolio options.


Even when content is streamed to personal devices, a requirement for servers and wifi of course remains, which means wireless access points (WAPs) and, if off-board connectivity is desired, connections to a broadband ‘pipe’, via an antenna or antennas, to a satellite and or ground-based network. From a passenger experience perspective, the only requirements for wifi are that it works every time and works well. In part, at least, reliable connection is down to even signal distribution throughout the cabin, requiring that WAPs be installed and supported at various points in the cabin and potential interference between systems suppressed.


“The optimal location of WAPs through the cabin is defined using RF software simulation, which shows signal strength in the cabin and identifies when a WAP position needs to be changed. This informs precise positioning, since the cabin, its panels and dividers are included in the simulation, leading to actual installation in the best available positions, which are then validated by real measurements on the aircraft post-installation. To ensure interference-free operation, an initial assessment is done on equipment qualification levels. Embraer only moves on with system development after confirming that all LRUs are tested to defined RF emission and susceptibility standards. For final certification, aircraft RF testing is performed, verifying there is no interference to aircraft critical systems.” >>


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