Friday, 12 August 2016 01:50

Wi-Fi: Qantas wants you to Wi-Fly up on high, free and fast

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Qantas says it’s excited to be "gearing up for the rollout of in-flight Wi-Fi on about 100" of its domestic aircraft – fast and free!

Wi-Fi: Qantas wants you to Wi-Fly up on high, free and fast

As part of the work happening behind the scenes, Qantas says its "Flight Operations and Engineering teams are looking at how they can use inflight connectivity to improve aspects of the flights we take ‘beyond Instagram and live sport".

Qantas has written about this at its blog, and has provided some examples:

1. Reducing turbulence

At the moment, Qantas says its pilots "download the latest weather maps on their iPads just before takeoff".

They also have on-board radar to help them track storms as well as getting any major updates via radio.

However, "having Internet in the cockpit takes this to the next level. Pilots can stream richer information on real-time weather conditions expected along the flight path. They can use this to dodge areas of turbulence and make better use of tailwinds to reduce flying time".

2. Real-time maintenance.

Qantas notes that "modern aircraft generate huge amounts of data".

You may well be surprised to learn that "a single hour of flying can create several gigabytes of information from hundreds of sensors, particularly from the engines".

We are told that pilots are alerted to anything important, but "a lot of other data can’t really be accessed until the aircraft is on the ground".

By streaming this information back to base via the Internet, Qantas says its engineers "can closely monitor the technical performance of the aircraft in real-time and be ready if something needs attention. If they detect a replacement part is needed (like, a new fuel filter) they’ll get a head start on making sure it’s available when the aircraft lands".

3. Fewer medical diversions

From time to time, Qantas says that "passengers fall ill on a flight".

Naturally, Qantas says its crew is "trained in first aid", and notes that it often has "the generous assistance of passengers who are medical professionals".

However, as it is "sometimes hard to tell how serious a condition is", Qantas says it tends "to err on the side of caution and land as soon as we can".

Qantas reports these medical diversions average "average two or three a month across Qantas, can cause a lot of disruption to hundreds of people".

Indeed, "it often turns out that we could have kept flying with no negative effect on the sick passenger (who also wants to get to their destination, particularly if it’s home)".

The airline says it has "trialled one device which scans a patient’s heart condition if they are experiencing chest pains. The heart data is sent by Wi-Fi to a medical officer on the ground, providing a better diagnosis of the passenger which then informs whether we may need to divert to another airport or if the passenger is stable enough to be treated when we land at the original destination".

4. New connections

When flights are delayed, Qantas says "it causes problems for passengers who have an onward connection".

The company has a team inside its "Integrated Operations Centre that looks after rebooking passengers when this happens, but you often can’t get this information until you land".

With on-board Wi-Fi, Qantas says it is "looking at sending passengers an updated itinerary in-flight so that they have more certainty and can make any other arrangements ahead of time".

So, if you’re hankering to join the mile high Wi-Fly club, Qantas’ free and fast Wi-Fi will be available to you… soon!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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