Diehl Aerosystems is working on biometric recognition technology to monitor passenger movements onboard aircraft. As a potential first application, the German company has developed a system to count travellers during boarding.
Cabin crew are currently counting passengers manually before departure. The firm has been in talks with several airlines interested in the technology, says Olaf Kammer, bid and project manager for cockpit, display and cabin system.
Cameras installed in the aircraft's entry area will be able to distinguish between passengers and staff, thus providing an accurate number for who is on the aircraft when the doors close. Conventional technology such as an infrared light ray and photo cell would be unable to differentiate the movement of a person from, for example, a service trolley.
Kammer says it would be possible to use the recognition technology for additional purposes such as directing passengers to their allocated seats. This would require, however, combining the software with a database holding the respective passenger records, for example, from check-in or previous flights.
The system would be able to ascertain which passengers have embarked the aircraft and whether the allocated seats are occupied and seat belts fastened.
Cabin crew would also be able to add information to the passenger profiles, for example, regarding their inflight service requirements and details from previous flights.
Another application of the technology could be to secure cockpit doors, whereby access to the flight deck will be provided only to registered staff.
The use of such personal profiles is bound to generate controversy. Kammer says, however, that the critical perception of such system varies between different world regions. While the technology is likely to face disapproval in Europe, he expects that it would be less an issue in North America and Asia.
Kammer says that a passenger counting system could become available on commercial aircraft by the end of 2013.