World’s Top High Tech Aircraft Powered by Android: Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The Boeing787 Dreamliner is the most anticipated wide-body aircraft ever: Boeing has a total of 859 orders since 2004, and so far has only delivered 14 aircraft. By the end of 2013 the intention is to increase production to 10 units per month, but even then, most customers still have a waiting period of between 5 and 10 years. This is not a story about the body of the composite Dreamliner, or the fact that 20% less fuel than a 767, however, uses: In all 859 of these aircraft, every seat will be equipped with an Android-powered entertainment system.

Boeing offers two flavors of in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) solutions: The Thales Top Series Avant, and the Panasonic EX3. Unlike its Android-based, we have no information about the EX3 - but rather easily, two days ago, Qatar Airways showed the newly delivered 787 Dreamliner at the Farnborough International Airshow in Britain - and inside there are 254 seats, all equipped with the Thales IEFC.

There are two classes in the Qatar Airways 787, business and economy, and they are equipped with 17-inch and 10-inch touchscreen IEFCs respectively. The IEFCs are fully integrated - all of the hardware is stored in the back unit (there is no under-seat box). And the hardware spec ... well, this is the part that blew my mind. Each IEFC STMicro has a dual-core ARM processor, 1 GB RAM and a 256 GB (!) SSD. There is also one of the main server, a 32 x86 cores (ie quad-CPU Xeon or Opteron), 128 GB of RAM, and a further 4 TB SSD storage has. Optionally, the Avant will be equipped with what looks like a pull-out Android device (the Touch Passenger Media Unit) - presumably for running apps that are not suitable for the big screen.

Software-wise, we do not know much beyond the fact that both Thales and Panasonic units will run a customized version of Android. Given the time, we probably talk about Android 2.3 or 3.0 - but look at the picture above (larger), which has nothing Android with the exception of the three buttons in the lower right corner, there is Thales probably just using Android because a) the is free, and b) it has a large software ecosystem that passengers can use.

All in all a Qatar Airways has 508 Dreamliner ARM cores, 32 x86 cores, 382GB RAM and 69 terabytes of solid state storage. Apparently, the aircraft will be equipped with WiFi - no surprise there - and 3G mobile phone, presumably via a GSM microcell, which phone calls and data collides with a satellite and back down to earth. You should be able to withstand the normal phone calls on your cell phone, maybe even without additional costs - except during taxiing, takeoff, and landing, of course. British Airways is also expected to the Thales system to use in its Boeing 787's (and the Airbus A380) when they roll out next year.

Now, here's the funny bit: According to VR-Zone, the top series Avant is 80% lighter than other solutions that IEFC hard drives and boxes to be used under the saddle. Multiplied by 254 using back-of-the-napkin math, this results in fuel savings of 0.8% - one or two flights per day, a saving of 528 liters kerosene. In one year, that's a savings of $ 1.48 million - and that is something more than the cost of 69 terabytes of solid state storage. This is why, incidentally airlines constantly renovate their aircraft with lighter, more advanced furniture - and why the 787, which is made of composite materials instead of aluminum uses 20% less fuel than the same size Boeing 767.