New Patent offers tremendous safety benefits by real time data

Dr. Junaid Zubairi and Flight Data Tracker patent
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Professor receives patent for Flight Data Tracker

Real Time Download of number of parameters

Obvious use Accident Investigation also SMS and Aircraft Monitoring


The US Patent Office recently passed 11,000,000 in the number of patents issued. Among the recent patented innovations is one designed to be of TREMENDOUS benefit to AVIATION SAFETY. Dr. Junaid Zubairi, professor of Computer and Information Sciences at Fredonia, has invented a Flight Data Tracker which should make the “miscolored” black box obsolete.

The professor at SUNY Fredonia has written the programs that will track and save flight data that’s currently accessed from an aircraft’s black box. The new system neither requires installation of new hardware devices on each aircraft nor creation of a new ground infrastructure.

The Flight Data Tracker marketing plan focuses on eliminating the on-board black box. It highlights that no longer will the investigators wait months of more even hours before assessing probable cause. The Dr. Junaid Zubairi invention downloads data on a real time basis; so, the relevant information will be instantly available. The position and key readings on the flight’s operating parameters can be accessed.

All of that is great news for the NTSB and the other safety investigation organizations around the globe.

AAIbs around the world

Perhaps underestimated or unrecognized is the utilization of these numbers on a daily basis by the network of SMS civil aviation authorities, the manufacturers and the airlines (safety teams and MX). SMS is global standard for aviation safety. This methodology has moved the regulatory perspective from RETROACTIVE (‘tombstone”) to PROSPECTIVE (“proactive”). This transition depends on massive collection of data from planes around the world. That information is then analyzed to find patterns. Through a collaborative process, industry is addressing identified risks before they become problems.


data flowing through SMS processesThe Zubairi system should become the backbone for such transmissions. The SMS use would also be supported by the airlines which would use it  for  aircraft health monitoring systems.

flight tracking global picture


Fredonia professor receives U.S. patent for pioneering flight tracking technology

 Dr. Zubairi


A revolutionary technology, developed by Junaid Zubairi, professor of Computer and Information Sciences, has the potential to render obsolete the so-called “black box” – an essential  investigation tool used in all airplane accidents and incidents – through the real-time transmission of vital flight data to ground-level sensors.

OLD black box diagram


The United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to Dr. Zubairi for the Flight Data Tracker that he designed, with the assistance from undergraduate students, to track and save flight data that’s currently accessed from an aircraft’s black box. Zubairi’s software would eliminate the need, following a crash, to mount what can be an expensive and time-consuming search to recover the flight data recorder that stores the vital information.

“If the flight ends abruptly due to an accident, the data available in the (ground-based) server would allow the investigation into the crash to start immediately instead of searching for the black box,” Zubairi explained. Accident scene searches can take several days to complete.

Flight data tracker diagram


Flight Data Tracker design by Dr. Junaid Zubairi, professor of Computer and Information Sciences at Fredonia.

“In case of a crash, this real time component is really useful because instead of looking for the black box, we can reach out to the information immediately and we can start looking into the reasons why the plane crashed,” Zubairi said.

The real time component of the Flight Data Tracker also makes it extremely useful for ground-based monitoring of flights. This feature, Zubairi believes, has the potential to avoid situations, such as the Northwest Airlines Flight 188 that missed its designated airport by 150 miles, or disasters such Colgan Air Flight 3407 that crashed near Buffalo, by continually monitoring flight data and triggering alarms. Information to be sent to ground-level servers includes engine data, such as oil pressure and airspeed, as well as altitude, roll, pitch, thrust, heading, and other parameters.

Flights within the continental United States can safely and reliably transmit data to a string of servers, located at airports along the aircraft’s flight path, through existing UHF radio links. Satellite links could be utilized on international flights when UHF radio links are not available.

The Flight Data Tracker is scalable, so it can handle any number of flights – even thousands – without modification. The system allows several flights to send their data simultaneously to different servers. It is also “fault-tolerant,” so it can continue to function even if a few servers are down.

Unlike other patented flight tracking systems, Zubairi’s system does not require installation of new hardware devices on each aircraft, does not direct and store data to a single ground-based server or use proprietary algorithms.  

Flight data tracker diagram


Four Fredonia undergraduate students assisted Zubairi in various development aspects. These students, who have since received their degrees, and their projects and the course each attended, included:  Ahenk Er, whose thesis was “An Investigation into the Feasibility of Replacing the Black Box with Glass Box,” for CSIT 497; Zhoujun Fu and Sean Wignall, who worked on flight tracker programming in CSIT 435; and Iago De Silva, “Integration and Routing of FlightTracker,” for CSIT 499. Zubairi worked with Ms. Er to design the flight data tracker at the theoretical level using flowcharts and diagrams. He later built prototype software that simulated the working of the tracker.

“I always try to get the students involved in my research. That is the hallmark of my research,” Zubairi said.

Zubairi, who began work to develop the new technology in the 2010-2011 academic year, suggests use of black boxes could begin to be phased out within the next two years.


The SUNY Research Foundation and technology incubators at SUNY Binghamton and the University at Buffalo have provided marketing assistance that involves reaching out to aviation companies and aircraft manufacturers, such as Boeing, and regulators, including the Federal Aviation Agency {sic-Administration}and International Civil Aviation Organization.



Zubairi, who holds a Ph.D. and M.S., both in computer engineering from Syracuse University, and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from NED University of Engineering, Pakistan, sees the Flight Data Tracker as “potentially disruptive” because it has the potential to disrupt the status quo and force the aviation industry to redesign flight data tracking with new features and new possibilities. Zubairi has been a member of Fredonia’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences since 1999.

“I have been working on research for saving lives. Flight Data Tracker and medical emergency patient management projects are my humble contributions,” Zubairi said. “I am inspired by the quote, ‘Whoever saves one life, it is written as if he has saved all humanity.’ from Holy Quran and Old Testament.” 

Fredonia symbol


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