Aerometrix Air on an aircraft.

Covarians seeks to improve cabin environment through actionable data

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Longtime aerospace industry executive Frédéric Griffe in 2017 founded French firm Covarians with the aim of developing new aircraft applications based on the latest technologies emerging in the Internet of Things (IoT) market. Fast forward to this year’s Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg, and the fruit of Griffe’s labor was evident in the form of Aerometrix, a new global service from Covarians which uses a range of sensors to monitor important crew and passenger experience parameters onboard aircraft.

“Aerometrix provides airlines with key information regarding thermal comfort, air quality, ventilation efficiency, equipment health monitoring and many other operational parameters,” boasted the firm in a statement shared with Runway Girl Network in advance of the show. And so, RGN sat down with Griffe at AIX to learn more.

He explained that Aerometrix works by using small, “non-intrusive”, autonomous smart sensors which can be placed around the cabin without requiring a refit — for example on monuments, bulkheads, or seats. Moreover, the sensors’ shapes and colors can be customized to fit the style of a carrier’s cabin interior. The information is then collected in a data processing and cloud analytics system, which can be accessed by airlines through a dashboard. 

Instead of relying on passenger feedback, which is subjective and inconsistent, Aerometrix provides airlines with information to make tangible changes for every passenger, noted Griffe, a former executive with Zodiac Aerospace (now Safran). For example, by measuring the temperature of the aircraft in different parts of the cabin, an airline can determine if specific locations are much colder or hotter than others and then use that information in the short-term to offer guidance to passengers on choosing seats, and in the long-term to review its cabin layouts.

One area where Covarians sees this system as adding significant value is in measuring cabin air quality. “[A]erometrix’s ambition is to contribute to elucidate the fume events controversy and make cabin air quality monitoring an affordable reality for airlines and passengers,” the firm’s press release stated plainly.

“Fume events represent a large cost source for airlines in terms of diverted flights, maintenance operations, social dialogue, legal risks and brand image. The issue about the potential health effects of fume events has been debated and investigated for years with little result, but the COVID crisis has enhanced public awareness for health and air quality. Passengers are starting to use their COVID CO2 monitors on board airplanes.”

Indeed, RGN deputy editor John Walton now regularly carries a CO2 monitor when he flies.

Arming airlines with data about air quality enables them to take remedial action to support the wellbeing of passengers and crew. In this regard, Covarians’ work is particularly timely.

In recent years, crew members have flagged concerns about exposure to possible contaminants in the cabin, leading to potential adverse health effects. And, earlier this year, a bill called the “Cabin Air Safety Act of 2022” was proposed in the US House of Representatives. The bill includes language about installing onboard detectors and other air quality monitoring equipment on aircraft to enable pilots and technicians to identify the source of air supply contamination in real time.

Across the proverbial pond, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2021 invited stakeholders to execute a 36-month study that seeks to understand the potential long-term effects of contaminants through a comprehensive assessment of cabin air quality.

Rotation

Covarians is certainly not the first aviation stakeholder to propose cabin IoT applications, nor is it the only firm to offer cabin air quality monitoring. Teledyne Controls, for example, announced in June that it has obtained UK CAA Supplemental Type Certification approval for installation of its Aircraft Cabin Environment Sensor (ACES) on the Airbus A320 aircraft series, after previously receiving FAA certification for the A320 family and Boeing 737 series.

ACES has been implemented at four carriers in the US, UK and Australia, Teledyne said at the time.

Covarians’ Griffe told RGN that the main difference is that Aerometrix is “an all inclusive service with assistance to measuring station installation, periodic maintenance, data collection and analysis. The stations are just lended to our customer. So we do not sell any equipment.” He also pointed to the small size of the sensors used.

Like all companies involved in the IoT of aviation, Covarians faces questions about data usage and ownership. Airlines installing Aerometrix may not wish to share their data with Covarians. But on the flip side, there could be benefits to doing so, in order to identify broader trends.

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Featured image credited to Aerometrix