Ingenious - Winter 2018 13 to what really transpired after takeoff.” To date, the company’s deployable recorders have proven exceptionally reliable. According to Blake van den Heuvel, director of air programs at DRS Technologies Canada, over 97 percent of units from downed commercial and military aircraft have been recovered. Among those recorders, all were retrieved with their valuable data intact. “For transport aircraft, we’ve had a 100 percent success rate,” he says. “For the ones where our recorders were non- recoverable, I think you’ll find that we have situations where we’ve had a midair collision involving two very small tactical aircraft – both of which were approaching speeds of Mach 1. In that event, there is unfortunately very little left of either aircraft.” Ranasinghe understands the stakes are sky high for the project, knowing the software he and Guy are developing may one day be used to analyze a major commercial aviation incident. While having no room for error may seem daunting for some, Ranasinghe has embraced the challenge. “The software we’re working on has to be absolutely precise,” he says. “If even one piece of information isn’t accurate, investigators may interpret the data incorrectly and arrive at a faulty explanation for a crash.” While both DRS Technologies Canada and its parent company Leonardo DRS have been involved in the development of flight recorders for several decades, mainly in regards to military aircraft, recent tragedies within the commercial aviation industry have sparked a call for improved black box technology and recovery methods among passenger jets. Incidents such as the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 on March 8, 2014 are among the most infamous to have exposed shortcomings within current industry standards. En route to Beijing, the Boeing 777 lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after takeoff, deviating from its planned route and vanishing over the South China Sea along with its 227 passengers and 12 crew. What followed quickly became the largest and most expensive search effort in aviation history, spanning 1,046 days at a cost of nearly $160 million U.S. Working as part of a small team, Ranasinghe and Guy have been primarily developing the flight recorder’s Ground Support Equipment (GSE), a laptop-based application which will connect to the recorder itself in order to recover and display its flight data. Photo: Ainslie Coghill