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SAE International Revises Aerospace Radio-Frequency Identification Standard

WARRENDALE, Pa., March 2, 2016 - SAE International recently revised Radio- Frequency Identification (RFID) standard AS5678A (Passive RFID Tags Intended for Aircraft Use). The RFID standard revision was completed by SAE International’s G-18 committee and released in December. The G-18 committee is now working to publish AS6023 (Active and battery assisted RFID Tags Intended for Aircraft Use).

RFID is frequently used in Integrated Vehicle Health Management (IVHM) systems. Such technology enables the aircraft to “talk” to technicians about maintenance issues.

“This is a big area for SAE International in regard to aircraft maintenance,” said Logen Johnson, Aerospace Standards Engineer for SAE International. “Essentially, RFID technology enables the airplane to talk to itself in new ways and lets technicians know when there is a problem or when a part requires maintenance. It does this with radio signals. All the technician needs to do is walk by the part with a receiver and the part will transmit information on its status, where it came from, the part number, and where and when it was installed. Also, transitioning from wired to wireless systems is an excellent way to reduce the amount of wiring. The use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sensors for integrated vehicle health monitoring applications instead of wired network sensors will avoid costly redesign to route network cables and the costs of performing safety re-certification.”

There are two types of RFID systems.

Active RFID systems use self-powered RFID tags to broadcast signals over long distance. Active RFID tags are commonly used as “beacons” to accurately track the real-time location of assets or in high-speed environments such as passing through toll booths. Active tags provide a much longer read range than passive tags, but they are also much more expensive. Active RFID is currently used in areas such as ground support equipment management, cargo and personnel management and part tracking. 

Passive RFID systems use tags powered by the electromagnetic energy transmitted from an RFID reader. Passive RFID tags have such applications as access control, file trackingrace timing, supply chain management and smart labels. The lower cost makes using passive RFID systems economical for many industries. In aerospace, passive RFID used for part verification and history. Passenger baggage tracking.

Johnson said AS5678A was revised for several reasons. The revision:

  • Provides a requirements document for RFID tag manufacturers that produce passive-only, ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID tags for the aerospace industry.
  • Identifies the minimum performance requirements for passive, UHF RFID tags for aircraft parts that can only be accessed during ground operations.
  • Specifies test requirements specific to passive, UHF RFID tags for airborne use, in addition to RTCA DO-160 compliance requirements.
  • Identifies existing standards applicable to passive, UHF RFID tags.
  • Provides a certification standard for RFID tags that will use permanently affixed installation on aircraft and aircraft parts.

Active RFID is not currently allowed on aircraft due to an FAA restriction but the G-18 committee is hoping their active RFID standard helps in moving away from this restriction. Barry Allen, the G-18 chair had this to say about AS6023., “The reality is that active RFID technology is already pervasive throughout ground operations and onboard aircraft with electronics carried by passengers and in passenger luggage and cargo: fitness wearable activity trackers, smart watches, bag trackers, smart luggage, GPS trackers, cargo monitors, cycle computers, concussion detectors, and thousands of other devices going by names such as i-beacon, Bluetooth, BLE, WiFi, ANT to name a few.  Not to mention all the cell phones and laptops which people forget to turn off.

AS6023 Standard for Active (battery-powered) RFID Technology is currently an SAE G18 committee work-in-progress.  This committee comprised of global subject matter experts is working to define the minimum standards that such wireless devices must meet in order to ensure the safety of the aircraft and the passengers.”

SAE International is a global association committed to being the ultimate knowledge source for the engineering profession. By uniting over 127,000 engineers and technical experts, we drive knowledge and expertise across a broad spectrum of industries. We act on two priorities: encouraging a lifetime of learning for mobility engineering professionals and setting the standards for industry engineering. We strive for a better world through the work of our philanthropic SAE Foundation, including programs like A World in Motion® and the Collegiate Design Series™.

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