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Boeing Uses 20,000 Lbs. of Potatoes To Check Aircraft Wireless Network Signals 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-mean-you-don't? dept.
coondoggie writes "Boeing calls it Project SPUDS — or rather, Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution — that is, using sacks of potatoes perched on aircraft seats to test the effectiveness of wireless signals in an airliner cabin. Boeing said it was researching an advanced way to test wireless signals in airplanes and needed a way to effectively simulate 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft."
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Boeing Uses 20,000 Lbs. of Potatoes To Check Aircraft Wireless Network Signals

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  • Couldn't resist...
  • So (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:45PM (#42341979)

    So did they do this test in their labs, or at a Five Guys?

  • coincidence (Score:5, Funny)

    by pesho (843750) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:46PM (#42341999)
    The fact that Boeing's customers treat their passengers as sacks of potatoes is purely coincidental.
    • by colin_faber (1083673) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:55PM (#42342123)
      Haha yes I was just thinking that, FTA "The team determined that potatoes were ideal stand-ins for passengers, given their similar physical interactions" I've seen lots of sacks of potatoes in my travels over the last year. Some even snore.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If Boeing covered the sacks in lard and flew them to Florida, half of 'em would be married within a week and the rest would be cops.

      • I was thinking, "Why couldn't they have used cows or hippos?" but then I realized, potatoes don't whine about not being able to fit into a seat because they're too fat.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Are they using couch potatoes or in this case coach potatoes!?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think you may be on to something there. Not that Boeing really gets much choice in what their customers do after the product is sold, anymore than a movie studio can keep me from improving their DVD's by smearing them with feces.

      Let's look at ways airlines treat customers like potatoes:

      • mashing
      • frying
      • boiling
      • baking
        • including twice-baked
      • roasting
      • dehydrating
      • peeling
      • soaking
      • salting
      • thrown into sacks
      • dumped out of sacks
      • fed manure
      • fed compost
      • kept in the dark
      • plowed over
      • ripped out of place
      • invasive scans
      • ID'd by machines
      • fa
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      The fact that Boeing's customers treat their passengers as sacks of potatoes is purely coincidental.

      Execpt that passengers are typically self-loading cargo, thus saving the airline from having to pay people to load cargo as they would with sacks of potatoes.

  • I hope some of those potatoes were asked to pay for 2 seats.

    In all seriousness, 80 pounds of potatoes has similar WIFI restricting capabilities as maybe 140 pounds of person? What other food analogs are used in place of people for tech experiments?
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @06:54PM (#42342103)

    cause if they used the 75-ohm ones, their Starch Wave Ratio may be too high.

    oh, and they have to be properly grounded. potatoes have experience in this area, so that's not usually a problem.

    • Well, I know that if I eat too many potatoes, I find that the input impedance ends up significantly lower than the output impedance and I get lots of damaging signal reflection at the output of the feedline...

    • by tool462 (677306)

      No kidding. If they mismatch impedances, the eye's on those potatoes will close.

    • 75 ohm is fine for video. What is the primary use? Audio is often 32 ohms for headphones, 8 ohms for speakers, 50 ohm for radio, and 75 for video. Eithernet is typicaly 110 ohm, so 75 ohm is in the ballpark. 50 ohms may be a better match if you can find 50 ohm spuds.

      Can you say psudo science? I knew you could.

  • That's spudtacular!
  • All eyes will be on Boeing to make sure they don't make a hash of it.
  • then they would be called French flies.
  • 1st: glazed honey roasted Bus.: Boiled new potatoes Cattle: left-over corned-beef mash
  • When the plane is connecting to low bandwidth cellular networks for internet access, how much does it really matter if there is good wifi signal throughout the plane or not.

    • by colinnwn (677715)
      Well, this was also for regulatory and safety testing, not just for signal quality to the end user. You also want to ensure every seat on the aircraft at least has a decent signal to not compound potential backhaul problems. Finally next gen ground data service is in development for both ground and AC users, as well there is decently high speed satellite service for AC like Row44.
    • by mikael (484)

      Try measuring your wifi signal strength using a smartphone meter app. I did that in my apartment, and it seems there are standing wave patterns. I would imagine the signal gets reflected off cables, radiators, chairs, LCD screens, tables and whatever else.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:04PM (#42342265)

    ...and didn't have to pay
    to
    get
    it
    IN!"

    (oldie but goodie?)

  • Were TSA agents involved, and did they suffer from any inferiority related mental injuries?
  • Why couldn't they "effectively simulate 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft" by actually having 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      FTFA:

      The technology was first developed to more thoroughly and efficiently ensure that signal propagation met the regulatory safety standards that protect against interference with an aircraft's critical electrical systems, Boeing stated.

      Even for tests, they're probably not yet allowed to have those 200-300 people in seats, using wifi, while the plane is aloft.

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        my hat off to them: I've managed to teach my sack of spuds to use open access wifi, but wpa2 is just too hard...

      • by Firehed (942385)

        When did this take place? The BOS-SFO flights on Virgin often have half or more of the guests using WiFi, and those A320s hold 146 passengers. They've had in-flight WiFi since the fleet launched, as far as I know. Certainly since 2009 since I first flew with them.

    • by xaxa (988988)

      Why couldn't they "effectively simulate 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft" by actually having 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft?

      Because it's cheaper than using actual people (from the video in the article, they first tested that the potatoes were similar enough to people in a lab). They were able to do some particularly long-running tests and collect a huge amount of data.

      • by mbstone (457308)

        You could never get 200 people to sit in airline seats for several hours, unless they were flying somewhere. This would violate the Geneva Convention Against Torture.

    • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @07:27PM (#42342599) Journal

      Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

      There's just no pleasing you.

      • by jd2112 (1535857) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @08:05PM (#42343019)

        Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

        There's just no pleasing you.

        WiFi screws up airplane, 300 potato sacks lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use people who can't stop texting for a few minutes instead of sacks of potatoes?"

        • by roc97007 (608802)

          Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

          There's just no pleasing you.

          WiFi screws up airplane, 300 potato sacks lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use people who can't stop texting for a few minutes instead of sacks of potatoes?"

          Wifi screws up airplane, 300 mad texters lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use celebutantes?"

          • Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

            There's just no pleasing you.

            WiFi screws up airplane, 300 potato sacks lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use people who can't stop texting for a few minutes instead of sacks of potatoes?"

            Wifi screws up airplane, 300 mad texters lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use celebutantes?"

            Wifi screws up airplane, 300 celebutantes lost, and your first question would be, "How do you know it wasn't the paparazzi on the wings?"

          • by jd2112 (1535857)

            Let's see...WiFi screws up airplane, 300 people dead, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use sacks of potatoes or something like that instead of people?"

            There's just no pleasing you.

            WiFi screws up airplane, 300 potato sacks lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use people who can't stop texting for a few minutes instead of sacks of potatoes?"

            Wifi screws up airplane, 300 mad texters lost, and your first question would be, "Why the hell didn't they use celebutantes?"

            I'm having a mental image of Lindsey Lohan wrecking a Porsche into an airplane...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Spuds don't demand union wages and benefits

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That might be enough potatoes to account for average sized people, but what about a plane load of fat Americans? They'd have to use 50,000 lb

    • by drkim (1559875)

      That might be enough potatoes to account for average sized people, but what about a plane load of fat Americans? They'd have to use 50,000 lb

      There's an aircraft that seats 50,000 fat Americans? Wow!

      • by Nikker (749551)
        There has to be a paradox in there somewhere, just have to keep looking I guess.
  • Where's it flying too, White Hart Lane?

  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @08:21PM (#42343171)

    It was just after dark when the plane started down
    The airspace that leads into Scranton, Pennsylvania
    Carrying Twenty Thousand Pounds

    Of potatoes.

    Carrying twenty thousand pounds
    (hit it Big John)
    Oooooof Potatoooooes

  • by knorthern knight (513660) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @08:39PM (#42343313)

    ...you know the wifi signal was too strong

  • Do they not watch Mythbusters? If nothing else, Mythbusters has taught me that pigs are awesome human body analogues. ...at least better than sacks of potatoes. That being said, potatoes would be easier to strap into the seats than a bunch of living (or dead) pigs. better smelling too.

    • Dead pigs are expensive, smell, leave stains on the seats, have a limited acceptable usage time and some people don't like for you to use them.
      Now the mythbusters are usually testing other things than dielectric strength. I an certain a spud doesn't have similar ballistic properties to a human.
  • by pongo000 (97357) on Wednesday December 19, 2012 @10:45PM (#42344145)

    ...at least back when Boeing had a presence in Wichita, KS in the 80's. They shot dead chickens out of a specially-built canon to simulate windshield strikes. My understanding is that jet engine manufacturers still use chicken canons to fire birds into running jet engines.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Just remember to use fresh, not frozen chickens!

  • Potatoes? That isn't anything compared to the THIRTY thousand pounds of mashed bananas!

    Anybody? Aaaaaanybody?

  • So I guess it was Take Your Daughter To Work Day at Boeing? I wonder who won the science fair, or if there were any survivors?
  • I hope they donated all those potatoes to food banks when they were done playing with them.
  • I would much rather share a flight with spuds than travellers. For example, new potatoes are tasty, whereas babies are noisy and smelly.

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