Boeing ecoDemonstrator

Image via Boeing

Galleys, seats and lavatories will get smarter as they’re tested aboard Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator test-bed aircraft.

Boeing has partnered with Diehl Aviation, KID-Systeme, Etihad Engineering, Collins Aerospace, Bühler Motor, Jeppesen, Zodiac Aerospace, Embraer, Honeywell, and more for its 2019 ecoDemonstrator program, an accelerator that tests promising technologies in a Boeing 777 test-bed aircraft. Smart cabin features, flight deck optimizations, materials innovations and new flight-control and aerodynamics technologies are getting a shakedown in this year’s ecoDemonstrator cohort.

Diehl has installed its eSmart Galley in the ecoDemonstrator, and is serving as consortium leader for i+sCabin (“Intelligent and Smart Cabin”), an international research program for the definition of standards for connected cabin features. Diehl is also part of OPSTIMAL, a research project looking at predictive maintenance of cabin and avionics components, which is part of Boeing’s 2019 ecoDemonstrator program as well.

The ecoDemonstrator project has tested over 100 new technologies – over a third of which have made it into production by Boeing or one of its partners.

Flying test installations on board Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator will allow the i+sCabin team to test the principles of cabin communications standards, wireless communications sensor networks and smart functions of galleys. The implementation and testing of the first version of the i+sCabin, which launched in 2018, is expected towards the end of 2019. The i+sCabin initiative is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which has endorsed the research project with a €3.9 million($5.7 million) grant.

The ecoDemonstrator project was created in 2010, and has so far tested over 100 new technologies – over a third of which have made it into production by Boeing or one of its partners. The project also demonstrates the viability of biofuel. According to Boeing, each of the program’s test-bed aircraft is powered by sustainable aviation fuel, which can reduce life-cycle carbon emissions by up to 80%, depending on the fuel’s source.

“[Boeing’s mission is] ‘connect, protect, explore, and inspire.’ The ‘protect’ part I like to think is also relevant to our planet,” said ecoDemonstrator project pilot Ruth Morlas in a video. Morlas ended up in the pilot’s seat due to outside-the-box thinking. She considered becoming a flight attendant, but her high school guidance counselor suggested she become a pilot instead. “When someone has a certain mental model,” she said, “just asking them to consider something outside of that can change the course of someone’s life like it did for me.”

The ecoDemonstrator was on display at Frankfurt International Airport on November 19 and 20, for government officials, industry representatives, and STEM students to visit. Etihad Aviation Group hosted meetings between UAE and German representatives to discuss future projects.