A few days ago we all became aware of a new attempt at sneaking a bomb onto an aircraft, scheduled for delivery of packages here in the U.S. It seems that a terrorist had attempted to disguise bombs as being printer cartridges. But just as airlines were starting to gear up for wi-fi and cell phone service on-board their aircraft, this recent incident could spell doom for these projects. The bombs found on the aircraft in the UAE had a cell phone connected in what appeared to be an attempt at remote detonation.

In a recent article it also stated that:

This comes as the aviation industry is gearing up to provide broadband in-flight entertainment systems that feature both cellphone and Wi-Fi connections for passengers. These systems would mean that passengers would no longer need to illicitly use their cellphones when they come into range of ground masts at low altitudes near airports – a potentially dangerous activity that could interfere with the aircraft’s avionics.

In-flight communications is a fast-growing market at the moment. Market researcher InStat of Scottsdale, Arizona, says that 2000 passenger aircraft are expected to have this kind of satellite broadband communications technology by the end of this year, compared with just “a couple of dozen” in 2008.

Last week’s discoveries cast doubt on the wisdom of in-flight communications, says Roland Alford, managing director of Alford Technologies, an explosives consultancy in Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK. He says he expects the technology to be scrutinised in the security reviews being undertaken by the UK government and US Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the discovery of the printer bombs.

In-flight Wi-Fi “gives a bomber lots of options for contacting a device on an aircraft”, Alford says. Even if ordinary cellphone connections are blocked, it would allow a voice-over-internet connection to reach a handset.

“If it were to be possible to transmit directly from the ground to a plane over the sea, that would be scary,” says Alford’s colleague, company founder Sidney Alford. “Or if a passenger could use a cellphone to transmit to the hold of the aeroplane he is in, he could become a very effective suicide bomber.”

I don’t know about you, but I can go a few hours without cell phone or wi-fi service, if it means added security for the flight I am on. I don’t believe we need to be connected 24 x 7 to any device or technology.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – NewScientist