Boeing and FedEx Express are performing a 90-day in-service evaluation of the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) "smart labels" on major parts of a recently converted Boeing MD-10 freighter.

Similar to a barcode, RFID is an automated identification and data collection technology that uses radio frequency signals to transfer data to a reader. The smart labels or tags store part and serial number, manufacturer code and installation date information. The tags also store maintenance and inspection data, so airlines can tell when a particular part needs replacing.

The smart labels contain a microchip and antenna and operate at 13.56MHz - an internationally recognised standard RFID frequency. The label offers advantages over other types of identification such as no line-of-sight requirement and a dynamic read/write capability. RFID technology has been used in the retail industry as well as employee identification and access control.

The 40 passive labels on the MD-10 each contain 10kB of memory and are in the flightdeck, avionics compartment, cargo compartment and wheel wells.

Source: Flight International