Airplane RF Propagation


Air to ground (ATG) communication systems are emerging as an effective way to provide broadband services to the airborne commercial market, because it provides a relatively inexpensive connectivity solution. For ATG systems – as is the case for terrestrial cellular systems – the prediction of signal propagation is essential to wireless network planning. Improvement of the design of ATG systems can be enhanced through the visualization and analysis of different aspects of radio frequency propagation, such as: wave propagation paths, received power, and path loss/gain.

Boeing 777-200 Exterior 3D Model.

Figure 1. Boeing 777-200 Exterior 3D Model.


A form of virtual engineering was implemented to build a fully operational 3D simulator for RF signal propagation inside a Boeing 777-200 aircraft cabin. Wireless Insite software was used to evaluate radio wave data followed by processing in Matlab. Paraview was then used for visualization of the data. Models of the exterior and interior of the plane were created in 3ds Max. These models were then combined with the visualized data in Open Scene Graph and visualized with VR Juggler in the CIVS immersive theater.

Untextured 3D Model of Interior.

Figure 2. Untextured 3D Model of Interior.

Visualization in the CIVS Immersive Theater.

Figure 3. Visualization in the CIVS Immersive Theater.


Through this project a pipeline for visualization of RF data and integration of RF simulation and virtual reality was established. The completed application allows users to fly through the cabin of a Boeing 777-200 and use a virtual probe to display RF data at any point. This was used to evaluate several different configurations to optimize placement of wireless transmitters throughout the aircraft cabin.

Click the movie below to see Airplane RF Propagation in detail.

Faculty Collaborator: Dr. Besma Smida

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