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RFID TagSource inks R&D agreement with FAA; high-memory tags take off in aviation apps

RFID TagSource has signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that allows the firm to use the FAA’s laboratory facilities and resources at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center in New Jersey.

The collaborative research will eventually help to enhance flight safety and maintenance operations by storing maintenance history information directly on aircraft parts by using RFID TagSource’s new high memory passive RFID tag. The AeroTag, unveiled in November, stores information on a small chip that tracks the pedigree of flight certified parts and improves inspection operations.

The FAA agreement is an indication of the capabilities that RFID TagSource has developed for RFID in aerospace and defense. Last year RFID TagSource worked with Boeing on the Air Force ARAI program where specially designed RFID tags were attached to an Air Force F-16 and tested at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“This work supports the mission of the aerospace industry to continually improve flight safety and operational efficiency,” said Kevin Donahue, managing director at RFID TagSource. “The resources available to us at the FAA Technical Center have really helped speed up our development efforts. This is a fantastic opportunity and exciting time for our company.”

RFID TagSource is a tag supplier for the Airbus A350, which is currently under development. Airbus is requiring that most parts be tagged with RFID tags. Airbus expects that up to 3,000 aircraft parts will be tagged on each plane, with 2,000 of these tags being high memory tags carrying 4 kilobytes or more of storage.

“The Airbus program is very real and it’s very far along,” said Donahue. “They are actually in the process of having [RFID tagged] parts delivered.”

Airbus will use the RFID tags to maintain maintenance records and parts history. When it comes time to check the history of part, maintenance personnel can rely on a hand-held RFID reader to obtain the full history of an A350 part. Donahue says that the Airbus requirement for read performance using a handheld unit is a minimum 20 inches globally, but that RFID TagSource is exceeding that requirement, in some cases reaching 24 inches or more.

While Airbus will use up to 3,000 RFID tags per plane, actual tag consumption will likely be up to 10 times that number for each plane, as all spare parts stored at global distribution centers and warehouses will also carry tags.

In November, RFID TagSource announced the development of the AeroTag family of high memory passive RFID tags, developed within the guidelines put forth by the Air Transport Association (ATA). The tags meet ATA Spec2000 and SAE-AS5678 specifications. With 4 kilobytes of memory and a lightweight rugged design, the tags are particularly well suited for manufacturers supporting the Airbus A350 XWB RFID initiative.

“The AeroTag has been designed to address an identified need for storing maintenance history information directly on aircraft parts,” said Donahue. “There are a number of initiatives underway in the aerospace industry that cannot be supported using generally available lower memory tags. The combination of our new high memory and our partner’s lower memory offerings has RFID TagSource uniquely positioned to serve the broad set of needs for RFID technologies across the aerospace and defense industry.”

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s previous coverage on RFID and aerospace.

The new AeroTag product line features integrated circuits from Tego, a provider of high memory passive RFID chip solutions that meet the ATA Spec2000 spec. AeroTags outfitted with Tego silicon can be configured to store up to 32 kilobytes of data.

Last year RFID 24-7 reported that the airline industry could consume hundreds of thousands of high memory RFID tags within 12 to 18 months, possibly reaching the millions depending on the applications and use cases that manufacturers adopt.

“Right now we have just the specific applications for flyable tags but there are additional applications that companies are looking to expand into,” Tego CEO Tim Butler told RFID 24-7. “Going forward, we think the projections that call for the industry to use many millions of tags over the next three to five years is a very viable estimate.”

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