Staff at Ultra Electonics' Noise and Vibration Systems (NVS) division are taking a particularly close interest in fruit these days - no, not an outbreak of corporate dieting, but an informal method of measuring the effectiveness of the company's UltraQuiet seat.

Cambridge, UK-based Ultra has been working for some time on putting a development of its cabin noise-cancelling technology into individual seat headrests. The system is being looked at by several airlines for fitting to business-class and first-class seats, says the company.

However, there are strict criteria to be met, says Rob McDonald, head of sales and marketing for Ultra's NVS division. "The airlines have said 'If you can deliver this at less than 2 lb (0.9kg), less than $500 and drawing less than 20 watts, we'll commit to that.'

"Weight, cost and power parameters are easily met: The last part is to check you get the performance we've been illustrating." Which is where the fruit comes in.

"We're checking that the volume of low noise produced around the headrest is sufficiently large. Nobody is going to pay for a low-noise area that's the size of a walnut, so that if you move your head an inch or so you lose the benefits. You need to make sure the volume of low noise on either side of the person's head is the size of a mango or pineapple." This work is being carried out jointly with the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) at Southampton University, around 40 miles south of Farnborough.

Airlines are looking at noise-cancelling headrests "as a natural differentiator", says McDonald. "There's not much more you can do on an aircraft." While Ultra and ISVR staff are busy concocting the ideal fruit salad, a seat demonstrating the sound-cancelling principle can be seen in Hall 4-G11.

Source: Flight Daily News