When IPs Fly - A Case for Redefining Airline Communication
John P. Rula, Fabián E. Bustamante, David R. Choffnes
In Proc. HotMobile, February 2016.
Evanston, IL 60201, USA
Boston, MA 02115, USA
The global airline industry conducted over 33 million flights in 2014 alone, carrying over 3.3 billion passengers. Surpris- ingly, the traffic management system handling this flight volume communicates over either VHF audio transmissions or plane transponders, exhibiting several seconds of latency and single bits per second of throughput. There is a general consensus that for the airline industry to serve the growing demand will require of significant improvements to the air traffic management system; we believe that many of these improvements can leverage the past two decades of mobile networking research.
In this paper, we make the case that moving to a common IP-based data channel to support flight communication can radically change the airline industry. While there remain many challenges to achieve this vision, we believe that such a shift can greatly improve the rate of innovation, overall efficiency of global air traffic management, enhance aircraft safety and create new applications that leverage the capability of an advanced data channel. Through preliminary measurements on existing in-flight Internet communication systems, we show that existing in-flight connectivity achieves order of magnitude higher throughput and lower latency than current systems, and operates as a highly reliable and available data link. This position paper takes a first look at the opportunity for IP-based flight communication, and identifies several promising research areas in this space.