Currently I am investigating the feasibility of transmitting a limited amount of FDR data via radio link for domestic flights within continental USA. I am working on building a prototype system in which I need to connect the FDR with a computer. USB interface is the most appealing one. I am using a small Flight data recorder (FDR) which has a USB interface. However, it is for hobby planes. Is there a USB interface for FDR's in the passenger planes? Or something that converts between ARINC and USB?

  • $\begingroup$ Not sure where to start on this... there isn’t a USB port on any FDR I know. FDR is not designed to be read from in air. Also, FDR is not the best box to connect to. Most aircraft have something along the lines of an acquisition unit collecting all data and routing it to FDR. Some aircraft provide something similar to what you want from that acquisition unit via ACARS transmission already. In any case, before you patch anything into a commercial airliner, you required a Supplemental Type Certificate from your authority before being allowed to do that. $\endgroup$ – Cpt Reynolds Jul 3 '19 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Reynolds for the info. I think there is a Data acquisition unit in modern planes (DAU) that pulls the data from black box. In emergencies during landing and take off, DAU can send tons of data to ATC on demand. $\endgroup$ – Junaid Jul 4 '19 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, pressed ENTER too soon. I believe modern FDR is already a computer. All I need to do is add my software to it that would pull the safety data and transfer it to the cloud regularly. In the long run, I think OEM is the way to go if any FDR company is interested in this product. $\endgroup$ – Junaid Jul 4 '19 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ I don't believe anyone is transmitting all the 88 FAA mandated parameters all the time. $\endgroup$ – Junaid Jul 4 '19 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Junaid you don't seem to understand that you will not be allowed to plug in ANYTHING in flight to the FDR or any other system without certification from the FAA. This isn't a cheap startup project, you need deep pockets to do this. No way around it. $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez Jul 4 '19 at 10:44

Certified FDR's for commercial aircraft don't have USB ports. They have interface ports because you obviously need to be able to extract data, but they are usually proprietary and each one uses a specific cable for the FDR you want to talk to. To do what you want to do you'd have to design a device that talks to FDR units to download and decompress the data. There are commercial test set units out there that can do this. They are not cheap. As was mentioned in a comment, to do this while in flight will require an STC from the FAA. Also, converting between ARINC and USB doesn't make sense. ARINC is a company, USB is a computer interface specification.

That said, I don't think connecting to the FDR is the best way to do this. As was mentioned, ACARS may already do part or all of what you are interested in doing.

  • $\begingroup$ Juan, please see my previous comment to Reynolds. I will appreciate any advice. I found one ARINC-to-USB adapter by ASTONICS Ballard Technology but it costs $4,000. Pretty expensive for just an interface. $\endgroup$ – Junaid Jul 4 '19 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Junaid: 4000 is a small amount for any business developing flight data transmission systems for certification for use in commercial passenger transport aircraft. If you can't afford $4000 you are unlikely to have sufficient resources for a project of that significance. $\endgroup$ – RedGrittyBrick Jul 4 '19 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I agree with you. However I just wrote to dispel the impression the previous comment created that there was no way to convert between ARINC and USB. $\endgroup$ – Junaid Jul 4 '19 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ Like I said in my answer, there is a way, but it is a test set, not certified for use in flight. $\endgroup$ – Juan Jimenez Jul 4 '19 at 15:25

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