Boeing uses sacks of potatoes to streamline tests

Boeing has a secret weapon when it comes to its latest work to give the company a competitive edge in the jet airplane market: sacks of potatoes.

On Wednesday, the company announced a technological breakthrough that vastly cut down the time needed to perform the latest round of tests aimed at improving the your WiFi experience when in flight. The goal was to develop a more "reliable connectivity [for passengers] using networked personal electronic devices in the air."

The breakthrough isn't the potatoes, it's some technological combination of tools and statistics, but the potatoes helped.

The tests didn't involved humans, but S.P.U.D.S., which stands for "Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution," which in plain language means spuds, sacks of potatoes piled in up in plane seats. Boeing used 20,000 pounds of potatoes.

It turns out that Boeing engineers say potatoes and the human body have "similar physical interactions with electronic signal properties," and the tests wouldn't have been truly accurate unless the effect of a full plane on the WiFi was included in the experiments.

So between the new tech procedure and the selfless participation of all those potatoes, tests which used to take weeks were done in just 10 hours, and now Boeing hopes real humans will reap the benefits in the near future.


Dan Restione, KIRO Radio Managing Editor
After signing on at News Talk 97.3 KIRO FM back in the waning days of the 1980's, Dan's worked his way up from the ranks- working as Desk Assistant, Morning Editor, Afternoon Editor, and Reporter.
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