SAE International’s G-18 committee is working to publish AS6023, a new standard that applies to active RFID tags for aircraft. Active RFID technology uses self-powered RFID tags to broadcast signals over long distance. It is commonly used to track the real-time location of moving objects, such cars passing through toll booths. Airports use this technology for ground support equipment management, cargo and personnel management and part tracking. Logen Johnson, Aerospace Standards Engineer for SAE International, explained:
This is a big area for SAE International in regard to aircraft maintenance. Essentially, RFID technology enables the airplane to talk to itself in new ways and lets technicians know when there is a problem or when a part requires maintenance. It does this with radio signals. All the technician needs to do is walk by the part with a receiver and the part will transmit information on its status, where it came from, the part number, and where and when it was installed. Also, transitioning from wired to wireless systems is an excellent way to reduce the amount of wiring. The use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sensors for integrated vehicle health monitoring applications instead of wired network sensors will avoid costly redesign to route network cables and the costs of performing safety re-certification.
The Federal Aviation Agency currently prohibits Active RFID from aircraft, but the G-18 committee is hoping their active RFID standard will help loosen this restriction. Despite this ban, Barry Allen, the G-18 chair says, “The reality is that active RFID technology is already pervasive throughout ground operations and onboard aircraft with electronics carried by passengers and in passenger luggage and cargo.” In a related effort, in December the committee revised standard AS5678A, which outlines requirements for passive RFID tags, a less expensive RFID system that uses tags powered by the electromagnetic energy transmitted from an RFID reader. This technology is used in the aerospace industry for part verification and history, such as tracking passenger baggage.