Ingenious - Winter 2018 11 “It’s no secret that travelling by air is among the safest methods of getting from point A to point B,” says Paul Young-Davies, senior manager of software engineering at DRS Technologies Canada. “When you compare flying to travelling by car, the statistics aren’t even close, with planes proving to be thousands of times safer.” Despite there being over 5,000 aircraft flying through the sky over the United States alone at any given time and more than 87,000 flights travelling across U.S. airspace every day, experts agree that flying has never been less dangerous than it is today. With 2016 having been one of the safest years in aviation history and 2017 currently on course to mark a record low in flight fatalities among commercial airliners, it’s easy to see how our safety is often taken for granted as we fasten our seatbelts, stow our tray tables, and ensure our seat backs are placed in their fully upright position. While the industry continues its ascent towards safer skies, Young-Davies understands that many of its enhanced safety standards have been established as a result of hard lessons learned along the way. Thanks to the presence of onboard flight recorders, commonly known as black boxes, investigators are often able to piece together the cause of airliner crashes with the hope that future disasters may be prevented from the knowledge that is gained. “Many of the safeguards we have in place today have evolved from our understanding of past tragedies,” he explains. “Knowing how and why previous crashes occurred has often paved the way for new technologies and tighter legislation throughout the industry.” With such valuable insight to offer, retrieving a downed aircraft’s black box has long been considered a top priority of search and rescue teams, surpassed only by efforts to locate survivors. With that in mind, Young-Davies and DRS Technologies Canada have been working to enhance post-crash recovery efforts through the development of a specialized Automatic Deployable Flight Recorder (ADFR) system. Unlike today’s black boxes, the company’s new design will release from the tail of an aircraft upon detecting significant structural deformation or becoming immersed in water. While traditional flight recorders also tend to sink to the sea floor in the event of a crash over water, the ADFR has instead been engineered to float indefinitely as it transmits its location to an international network of satellites, greatly reducing search costs and simplifying the unit’s retrieval. While the new technology has already begun making headlines worldwide, a pair of co-op students from Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design and Faculty of Science have been quietly making their mark on the revolutionary project from behind the scenes. In working with DRS Technologies Canada over the past six months, third year software engineering student Shasthra Ranasinghe and second year computer science major Kevin Guy have been part of a small team tasked with Over the past six months, second year computer science student Kevin Guy (left) and third year software engineering student Shasthra Ranasinghe have been developing software for an all-new deployable flight recorder with DRS Technologies Canada as part of their involvement with Carleton’s co-op education program. Photo: Ainslie Coghill