Boeing has been flying 20,000 pounds of potatoes around US air space in a bid to improve in-flight Wifi.
The company's come up with a new process for measuring radio signal quality, using in-house measurement technology and analysis tools. The aim is to get more efficient measurements of how strong a signal is and how far it spreads.
It cuts testing time from more than two weeks to just 10 hours.
"Every day we work to ensure that Boeing passengers are travelling on the safest and most advanced airplanes in the world," says Dennis O'Donoghue, vice president of Boeing Test & Evaluation. "This is a perfect example of how our innovations in safety can make the entire flying experience better."
A wireless signal inside an airplane can deviate randomly when people move around. Boeing's new test process, says the company, can identify strong and weak signal areas and balance them by adjusting the connectivity system accordingly. This means increased safety and reliability, it says.
The technology was first developed, not for passengers' benefit, but to make sure that signal propagation met regulatory safety standards covering interference with an aircraft's critical electrical systems.
Using the system to look at passengers' connectivity meant finding a stand-in for all those annoying bodies getting in the way of the signal. And after a series of tests, the team decided on sacks of potatoes.
Potatoes, says Boeing, don't get as bored as people when expected to sit around for hours with a dodgy Wifi connection.