Boeing tests in-flight wifi using 20,000 lbs of potatoes instead of humans

By: Matthew Humphries

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Getting the Internet beamed to an aircraft flying at 35,000 feet moving at a rate of 500mph certainly posed a tech challenge for the aviation industry. But also providing a wireless link to 300 passengers aboard a crowded flight needed to be thoroughly tested before an airline could confidently offer an in-flight Internet service.

With commercial aircraft increasingly offering access to the web while you fly, clearly the problems have been overcome. What may surprise you is some of the ways in which a company like Boeing goes about testing the wireless connections aboard its aircraft when designing and installing the network hardware.

In order to ensure wireless signals can be beamed to every seat on a plane, the designers have to simulate a flight and do weeks of testing. That would also mean requiring a few hundred people to sit in seats for multiple hours a day–something that would be both boring and quite costly to achieve. But instead of people, Boeing came up with Project SPUDS (Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution).

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