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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Woes and the Impact on IFEC

On an Air France flight from Marseille to Paris recently, I couldn’t help but notice a striking addition to the standard safety briefing.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, due to the recent safety issues with Galaxy Note 7 devices, we ask passengers to ensure your device is completely switched off and stored away for the duration of this flight”.

This is perhaps not one of those statements that will cause much alarm for seasoned passengers. Such personal alarm will always be reserved for “brace, brace”. However, behind the polite tone of each air flight attendant that delivers the above statement, is a very nervous airline. And rightly so! The World Wide Web is full of visual evidence backing up the need for the aviation industry to throw everything into ensuring issues do not arise in the air. Indeed, one flight has already had a lucky escape and we’re now seeing requests not just to switch off the plagued smartphone, but to ensure that people don’t travel with it all. Samsung has even opened “swap and drop” booths at major Australian airports where Note 7’s can be traded for the Galaxy S7 Edge.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an emergency order to ban all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone devices from air transportation in the United States and Japan’s transport ministry quickly followed suit. As a result, many airlines across the globe are prohibiting passengers from flying with the device for fear that it may catch fire mid-flight. Such fear has caused Delta Air Lines to accelerate pre-existing plans to fit planes with fire-containment bags. The likes of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America have already adopted the bags, which are capable of sealing up an overheating smartphone or laptop battery.

Emirates urges its passengers to carry switched-off Note 7's in cabin baggage only.
Emirates urges its passengers to carry switched-off Note 7’s in cabin baggage only

Following relaxation on the use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) in flight, this issue has brought a very significant con to the table. Any device or object that poses the potential risk of starting a fire onboard an aircraft in flight is something authorities will simply not tolerate. Questions that airlines and others are sure to be asking at this point in time include:

  • “Is this a one-off, isolated to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?”
  • “What is the potential for other PEDs to have a similar defect?”
  • “Are other battery-powered devices at risk?”

At this point in time, it looks like this particular issue is isolated to one device alone. That’s not to say that other phones haven’t caught fire. They have. Several iPhone owners, for example, have allegedly suffered nasty burns from exploding devices. The exact cause of the Note 7 issue is not known but is said to relate to a sub-optimal assembly process. Fortunately, a combination of the corrective actions by Samsung (i.e. recalling every single Note 7) and the response of the aviation industry seems to have done enough to ensure no device has gone up in flames mid-air.

At Valour Consultancy, we’ve been asked to provide our perspective on where this leaves the in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) industry. While there is unlikely to be any pushback on the deployment of these solutions because of the issues surrounding the Note 7, it is likely that we will see heightened focus on a particular subset of the market – portable wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE).

For a while now, some voices have expressed concern that these battery-powered boxes may also represent a fire hazard, cautioning that companies offering these products are operating in a market that could quickly close up if an incident occurs. Clearly, any energy storage device carries some sort of risk and this applies equally to battery-powered portable W-IFE as it does to laptops and other PEDs. Vendors of these devices have been quick point out that they rigorously test hardware to comply with the Transportable Pressure Equipment Directive (TPED) and other standards as they become adopted.

AirFi, the leading supplier in the portable W-IFE space, has repeatedly stated that the Dutch Aerospace/Defense Laboratory has tested its products and concluded that: “It is not a source of unacceptable interference for the aircraft electronics and therefore can be used onboard aircraft safely”. Additionally, AirFi’s units contain specialised batteries that can cope with air pressure. If a battery is not functioning as it should, the system shuts itself down and stores the information. Others reportedly offer self-extinguishing mechanisms. Even so, there are protocols in place for addressing burning PEDs that all flight attendants are aware of.

Portable W-IFE vendors should not worry too much. None would be in the industry if they brought to market sub-standard devices and we’ll doubtless hear of many new developments in this space at next week’s APEX Expo in Singapore. One thing’s for sure – passengers will find a way to move on and adapt. The word “nomophobia” has entered common parlance and refers to the fear of being out of mobile phone contact (I even saw a t-shirt for sale with the word and its meaning emblazoned across the front yesterday) . Such is the attachment to obtaining the latest and greatest technology, some will already be investigating their next replacement phone as opposed to worrying about the impact their current device could have on a flight.

Valour Consultancy will begin updating its report on W-IFE in 2017. In this new and improved edition, we’ll also take a look at the embedded market to provide an all-encompassing view of the market. Is there a data split or trend that you’d like us to focus on in more detail? If so, do please get in touch to find out more about our participant program, which is a way to shape our report scopes up-front.

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On an Air France flight from Marseille to Paris recently, I couldn't help but notice a striking addition to the standard safety briefing. "Ladies and Gentlemen, due to the recent safety issues with Galaxy Note 7 devices, we ask passengers to ensure your device is completely switched off and stored away for the duration of this flight". This is perhaps not one of those statements that will cause much alarm for seasoned passengers. Such personal alarm will always be reserved for "brace, brace". However, behind the polite tone of each air flight attendant that delivers the above statement, is a very nervous airline. And rightly so! The World Wide Web is full of visual evidence backing up the need for the aviation industry to throw everything into ensuring issues do not arise in the air. Indeed, one flight has already had a lucky escape and we’re now seeing requests not just to switch off the plagued smartphone, but to ensure that people don’t travel with it all. Samsung has even opened "swap and drop" booths at major Australian airports where Note 7's can be traded for the Galaxy S7 Edge. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an emergency order to ban all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone devices from air transportation in the United States and Japan’s transport ministry quickly followed suit. As a result, many airlines across the globe are prohibiting passengers from flying with the device for fear that it may catch fire mid-flight. Such fear has caused Delta Air Lines to accelerate pre-existing plans to fit planes with fire-containment bags. The likes of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America have already adopted the bags, which are capable of sealing up an overheating smartphone or laptop battery. [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"] [caption id="attachment_2008" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Emirates urges its passengers to carry switched-off Note 7's in cabin baggage only. Emirates urges its passengers to carry switched-off Note 7's in cabin baggage only[/caption] Following relaxation on the use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) in flight, this issue has brought a very significant con to the table. Any device or object that poses the potential risk of starting a fire onboard an aircraft in flight is something authorities will simply not tolerate. Questions that airlines and others are sure to be asking at this point in time include:
  • "Is this a one-off, isolated to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?”
  • “What is the potential for other PEDs to have a similar defect?"
  • “Are other battery-powered devices at risk?”
At this point in time, it looks like this particular issue is isolated to one device alone. That’s not to say that other phones haven’t caught fire. They have. Several iPhone owners, for example, have allegedly suffered nasty burns from exploding devices. The exact cause of the Note 7 issue is not known but is said to relate to a sub-optimal assembly process. Fortunately, a combination of the corrective actions by Samsung (i.e. recalling every single Note 7) and the response of the aviation industry seems to have done enough to ensure no device has gone up in flames mid-air. At Valour Consultancy, we’ve been asked to provide our perspective on where this leaves the in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) industry. While there is unlikely to be any pushback on the deployment of these solutions because of the issues surrounding the Note 7, it is likely that we will see heightened focus on a particular subset of the market – portable wireless in-flight entertainment (W-IFE). For a while now, some voices have expressed concern that these battery-powered boxes may also represent a fire hazard, cautioning that companies offering these products are operating in a market that could quickly close up if an incident occurs. Clearly, any energy storage device carries some sort of risk and this applies equally to battery-powered portable W-IFE as it does to laptops and other PEDs. Vendors of these devices have been quick point out that they rigorously test hardware to comply with the Transportable Pressure Equipment Directive (TPED) and other standards as they become adopted. AirFi, the leading supplier in the portable W-IFE space, has repeatedly stated that the Dutch Aerospace/Defense Laboratory has tested its products and concluded that: “It is not a source of unacceptable interference for the aircraft electronics and therefore can be used onboard aircraft safely”. Additionally, AirFi’s units contain specialised batteries that can cope with air pressure. If a battery is not functioning as it should, the system shuts itself down and stores the information. Others reportedly offer self-extinguishing mechanisms. Even so, there are protocols in place for addressing burning PEDs that all flight attendants are aware of. Portable W-IFE vendors should not worry too much. None would be in the industry if they brought to market sub-standard devices and we’ll doubtless hear of many new developments in this space at next week’s APEX Expo in Singapore. One thing’s for sure – passengers will find a way to move on and adapt. The word “nomophobia” has entered common parlance and refers to the fear of being out of mobile phone contact (I even saw a t-shirt for sale with the word and its meaning emblazoned across the front yesterday) . Such is the attachment to obtaining the latest and greatest technology, some will already be investigating their next replacement phone as opposed to worrying about the impact their current device could have on a flight. Valour Consultancy will begin updating its report on W-IFE in 2017. In this new and improved edition, we’ll also take a look at the embedded market to provide an all-encompassing view of the market. Is there a data split or trend that you’d like us to focus on in more detail? If so, do please get in touch to find out more about our participant program, which is a way to shape our report scopes up-front.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Drones – are these material to the business?

Following along from Valour Consultancy’s last blog about niche market opportunities in the drone industry, we might look at the construction of drones to meet these niche needs.

When we think of vehicle construction, then there is a tendency to assume the manufacturer has chosen the best material for the job but manufacturers have to balance numerous considerations beside performance such as availability of supply, cost, and ease of manufacture. This is why most cars on the road are made of steel and not carbon-fibre (which race cars are made of.)

If we consider drones as a subset of airborne craft, we can look at the progress of the development of airplane manufacture which started from wood and fabric, then, during the Second World War, fighter planes were made from steel. With the advent of commercial airlines came the aluminium fuselages, the carbon fibre and composites. We shall disregard titanium frames (used by such luminaries as the S71-Blackbird) as a rather specialised application.

The production of modern drones, by and large, has started off with the benefit of all this aviation research to draw upon and the large UAV manufacturers opt for carbon fibre reinforced polymer bodies because this material combines the best performance for normal use combined with ease of manufacture, availability and price. In addition, it is already referred to in the existing standards for aircraft materials.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has a series of standards covering aerospace materials including carbon-fibre, aluminium alloy and military-grade polymer alloys. Care has to be taken with the use of some of these materials as they inhibit radio signals. Endurance during robust weather events and in low-altitude urban environments where wind shear and canyon funnelling can be problematic have required UAV developers to choose very strong materials and design the frame structure to accommodate some flex.

The simplest material for UAV construction is wood. No commercial UAV that has been investigated has a wooden frame but the North Korean military use wooden framed aircraft and UAVs to foil South Korean radar.

In general, some combination of carbon fibre, aluminium and/or G10 which is an epoxy laminate of fibreglass. Carbon fibre and aluminium for commercial UAVs are used sometimes but they have the problem of being opaque to RF signals which only becomes a problem when operating at a distance from the base station. The majority of UAVs are manufactured with frame struts of carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers (CFRP).

For specialist industrial UAVs that would dare to go where few have gone before – methane-filled mines, oil-well fires, sand storms, and extreme weather events – high wind, torrential rain, fog and freezing temperatures (think a summer day in Glasgow), then batch or bespoke manufacture is required. This is an entirely different business from mass production as 3DR have recently acknowledged.

Bespoke construction allows the use of materials for drone components more closely aligned with the requirements asked of them such a radio-frequency transparency, greater flexibility, imperviousness to corrosive or abrasive atmospheres or greater stability over large temperature ranges.

Many such materials are now available such as graphene (for use in reinforcing carbon fibre composites), basalt fibre reinforced composites and other ceramic-matrix composites (CMCs) which promise greater high-temperature resistance, greater resistance to deformation and greater resistance to abrasion. Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed very strong bone-like structures that are lighter than water. At the moment they are only able to produce these millimetres thick but as the technology develops, be sure to expect their appearance in UAVs and aircraft.

It is not only the fuselage of the drone that can expect to be changed for specialised applications but also propellers, wiring (including the windings of the motor as super-conducting materials approach use at ambient temperatures), and integrated circuit boards which are rapidly approaching nano-scale size. Valour Consultancy will provide a further update report later this year, with further analysis and evaluation covering components, new materials and additional commercial UAV service revenues. For more information on our full report, click here.

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Following along from Valour Consultancy’s last blog about niche market opportunities in the drone industry, we might look at the construction of drones to meet these niche needs. When we think of vehicle construction, then there is a tendency to assume the manufacturer has chosen the best material for the job but manufacturers have to balance numerous considerations beside performance such as availability of supply, cost, and ease of manufacture. This is why most cars on the road are made of steel and not carbon-fibre (which race cars are made of.) If we consider drones as a subset of airborne craft, we can look at the progress of the development of airplane manufacture which started from wood and fabric, then, during the Second World War, fighter planes were made from steel. With the advent of commercial airlines came the aluminium fuselages, the carbon fibre and composites. We shall disregard titanium frames (used by such luminaries as the S71-Blackbird) as a rather specialised application. The production of modern drones, by and large, has started off with the benefit of all this aviation research to draw upon and the large UAV manufacturers opt for carbon fibre reinforced polymer bodies because this material combines the best performance for normal use combined with ease of manufacture, availability and price. In addition, it is already referred to in the existing standards for aircraft materials. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has a series of standards covering aerospace materials including carbon-fibre, aluminium alloy and military-grade polymer alloys. Care has to be taken with the use of some of these materials as they inhibit radio signals. Endurance during robust weather events and in low-altitude urban environments where wind shear and canyon funnelling can be problematic have required UAV developers to choose very strong materials and design the frame structure to accommodate some flex. The simplest material for UAV construction is wood. No commercial UAV that has been investigated has a wooden frame but the North Korean military use wooden framed aircraft and UAVs to foil South Korean radar. In general, some combination of carbon fibre, aluminium and/or G10 which is an epoxy laminate of fibreglass. Carbon fibre and aluminium for commercial UAVs are used sometimes but they have the problem of being opaque to RF signals which only becomes a problem when operating at a distance from the base station. The majority of UAVs are manufactured with frame struts of carbon-fibre-reinforced polymers (CFRP). For specialist industrial UAVs that would dare to go where few have gone before – methane-filled mines, oil-well fires, sand storms, and extreme weather events – high wind, torrential rain, fog and freezing temperatures (think a summer day in Glasgow), then batch or bespoke manufacture is required. This is an entirely different business from mass production as 3DR have recently acknowledged. Bespoke construction allows the use of materials for drone components more closely aligned with the requirements asked of them such a radio-frequency transparency, greater flexibility, imperviousness to corrosive or abrasive atmospheres or greater stability over large temperature ranges. Many such materials are now available such as graphene (for use in reinforcing carbon fibre composites), basalt fibre reinforced composites and other ceramic-matrix composites (CMCs) which promise greater high-temperature resistance, greater resistance to deformation and greater resistance to abrasion. Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed very strong bone-like structures that are lighter than water. At the moment they are only able to produce these millimetres thick but as the technology develops, be sure to expect their appearance in UAVs and aircraft. It is not only the fuselage of the drone that can expect to be changed for specialised applications but also propellers, wiring (including the windings of the motor as super-conducting materials approach use at ambient temperatures), and integrated circuit boards which are rapidly approaching nano-scale size. Valour Consultancy will provide a further update report later this year, with further analysis and evaluation covering components, new materials and additional commercial UAV service revenues. For more information on our full report, click here.