When Boeing set out to improve in-flight WiFi, they needed a solution to simulate how human passengers would affect signal strength and distribution. Enter the humble potato.
Yes, you read that correctly. Boeing used sacks of potatoes as stand-ins for passengers. This innovative approach, dubbed “Project SPUDS” (Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution), played a crucial role in enhancing wireless connectivity on aircraft.
Boeing’s Use of Potatoes as Human Substitutes
So, why potatoes? The reason is scientific. Potatoes, due to their water content and chemical makeup, absorb and reflect radio and wireless signals similarly to the human body. This makes them ideal subjects for testing the in-flight wireless network, as engineers sought to ensure strong and consistent WiFi signals across all seats.
Boeing filled airplane seats with sacks of potatoes to mimic a fully booked flight. This setup allowed them to measure the WiFi signals’ behavior accurately. Engineers could then adjust the placement of WiFi transmitters and receivers in the cabin to optimize signal strength and distribution, ensuring passengers could enjoy stable and fast internet access.
From Spuds to Solutions
The use of potatoes went beyond mere convenience. It offered a cost-effective and efficient method to test and refine in-flight WiFi systems. Traditional methods of using human volunteers for such tests were not only time-consuming but also less reliable due to the variability in human behavior and positioning. Potatoes, on the other hand, provided a consistent and controlled environment for testing.
Project SPUDS showcased how thinking outside the box—or the sack, in this case—can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems. Boeing’s engineers demonstrated that sometimes, the most unconventional tools can offer the best answers.
Impacts on In-Flight WiFi
The research and adjustments made possible by Project SPUDS significantly improved the quality of in-flight WiFi services. Passengers now enjoy better connectivity, with fewer dead zones and stronger signals throughout the cabin. This improvement enhances the overall travel experience, allowing pa