The Future of Black Boxes -technology adding to CVR/FDRs and aviation safety

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Aircraft Black Box Market Projected to Gain Significant Value by 2023

CVR/FDR history and NTSB recommendations

ALPA opposes Cockpit Image Recorder

Immediate Access now available 

This article’s title suggested that someone had researched where the technology development for the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Cockpit Data Recorder (CDR) plus maybe even the dreaded Cockpit Image Recorder (CIR) may be going. No, it is a market analysis, dollars not digits.

The History of the Black Box (Flight Data Recorder) provided a useful transcript of from whence the two orange recorders came—starting with David Warren 1967 “Memory Unit” up to today’s units which can  withstand an acceleration of 3400 g (33 km/s²) for 6.5 milliseconds. Plus the black box combined capacity includes 2-hour audio CVRs and DFDRs that can record up to 256 12-bit data words per second. The full set of technical standards are pages long.

The NTSB has recommended more sophistication be included in these two vital safety investigation tools, like units which are capable of more  timely recovery of critical flight data following an accident in a remote location or over water. The Board also asked the FAA to require inclusion of crash-protected cockpit image recording systems.

ALPA asserts that the CIR is superfluous, saying:

“… current technology already provides investigators with the tools they need to determine the causes of airline accidents. The digital flight data recorder (DFDR) can record hundreds of parameters ranging from basic values such as altitude and speed, to details such as rudder pedal position, the position of every switch, and even the onset of smoke alarms in the lavatory. The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) provides an audible recording of voices, radio transmissions, and sounds in the cockpit. Investigators have a wide array of analytical techniques to tease information out of forensic evidence from the wreckage and other sources. While any accident will leave unresolved questions, the fact is that it is extremely rare for investigators not to be able to reach the findings and conclusions necessary to determine the cause of an accident. Video imaging would add virtually nothing of real value to the investigative process, and could, due to its subjective nature, actually lead investigators down the wrong path.

With the increased debate about the deterioration of pilots’ stick and rudder skills, the visual information from a CIR might provide further information[1] about the cockpit crew’s eye and hand competency.

Pilots have opposed the CIR as an invasion of privacy. The airlines, which once installed video cameras in cockpits for the passengers, now have had cost concerns. A DOT report to Congress indicated that the evidence in support of the CIR did not merit mandating the addition of these instruments aboard airliners. ICAO has also not been a strong advocate for inclusion of cameras in the cockpit.

Thales has on the shelf a CVRS: Cockpit video recording systems and cameras for aircraft surveillance monitoring.

Perhaps, the agency opinion might be altered by the small and inexpensive video equipment plus greater concerns about airmanship.














[images from basic Go Pro camera]

Honeywell has some good news about the technology for the FDR/CVR:


What’s a Black Box and How It’s Getting an Upgrade

The flight data recorder will soon help make flights safer

July 09, 2019

“Whenever there’s an aircraft accident, the term “black box” typically gets mentioned in the news. That’s because of the crucial role it plays in finding out what happened.

For more than 60 years, investigators have used black boxes — which are really orange to make them easier to find among flight wreckage — to determine what caused an airplane accident. They use information from the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder to reach their conclusions, which is why all commercial aircraft are equipped with both of these black boxes.

In the past, that data was only available after a crash and when the physical box was found.

Now, we’re developing the “black box in the sky” a.k.a. the Honeywell Connected Recorder (HCR-25). It will let airlines access flight data and cockpit voice recordings during flight. The recorder uses a secure, cloud-based satellite link to send data from the aircraft to a data center using our software. There it can be analyzed and maintained.

Here’s how the newest black box features will make flights safer:

Faster access to data
If an incident occurs, flight data can be quickly accessed by the airlines and investigators in real time. Key information will be available even before the black box is found. Investigators will be able to locate the site almost immediately and will have faster access to information that will help them understand events leading up to the accident.

The new recorder will let airlines access flight data and cockpit voice recordings, even when the aircraft is in flight. It uses a secure satellite communications system connection that provides a 24/7 link between the aircraft and a data center on the ground.

Pictured above is the Cockpit Voice Recorder for the new black box.

More efficient operations, maintenance
The recorder collects data on thousands of variables including fuel levels, altitude, engine performance, temperature, direction and speed, which operators can use to improve operational and maintenance efficiency.

Meet new safety standards
The HCR-25 represents a leap forward in this technology. It will include several innovations and meet the new European Aviation Safety Agency cockpit voice recording mandate, which takes effect in 2021 and requires a 25-hour voice recording capability.

This will make critical information – including cockpit voice recordings and flight information – available so investigators can begin their analysis almost immediately.

With the Honeywell new Connected Recorder (HCR-25), the investigators will not have to wait to recover the Black Box. That’s great, but with digitization and miniaturization, more data can be captured. Such developments aviation safety will be able to reduce risks faster and that’s good.


[1]  The Police Foundation argues that body cameras may have improved patrol officers proper field technique.


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1 Comment on "The Future of Black Boxes -technology adding to CVR/FDRs and aviation safety"

  1. With the incredibly low cost of sd card type memory, wouldn’t it be possible to put a memory card at all 4 corners of the aircraft as well as nose, tail and mid body? For a relatively low cost this would provide layers of redundancy and multiple opportunities to gather flight data.

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