How Does Boeing Test Its in-Flight Wi-Fi?

You might not think of yourself as a couch potato, but Boeing kinda does. Beginning in 2006, the airplane manufacturer decided to improve wireless connectivity on flights, which became problematic when it reached higher altitudes, but Boeing couldn't realistically ask passengers to sit in the air for hours on end while it worked on different methods to boost the reliability of the wireless service. Oddly enough, engineers came up with the idea of filling a plane with something that behaved like human bodies: potatoes. It turns out that taters have the kind of chemical makeup that lets them absorb and reflect radio waves just like a person does, so under a program it dubbed SPUDS -- Synthetic Personnel Using Dialectic Substitution -- Boeing purchased 20,000 potatoes and piled them in the plane's seats. According to Boeing, the results were both fast and promising, with improved WiFi seen in the company's 777s, 747-8, and 787 Dreamliners.

Probing the potato:

  • Potatoes might seem pretty solid, but they are composed of 80 percent water.

  • Potatoes originated in Peru, but the world's biggest potato-eating nation is China, which consumes 12.6 percent of the total crop every year.

  • According to Guinness World Records, the largest potato ever grown weighed 18 pounds, 4 ounces (8.25 kg) -- the equivalent of 73 medium orders of McDonald's fries.

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More Info: USA Today

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