For the past two years, FOALE AEROSPACE
has been on an exhilarating journey to create an innovative machine learning–based system designed to help prevent airplane crashes, using what might be the most understated machine for the task—the Raspberry Pi. The system is marketed as a DIY kit for aircraft hobbyists, but the ideas it’s based upon can be applied to larger aircraft (and even spacecraft!).
FOALE AEROSPACE is the brainchild of astronaut Dr. Mike Foale
and his daughter Jenna Foale. Mike is a man of many talents (pilot, astrophysicist, entrepreneur) and has spent an amazing 374 days in space! Together with Jenna (who is currently finishing her PhD in computational fluid dynamics), he was able to build a complex machine learning system at minimal cost. All their development work was done in-house, mainly using the Wolfram Language
running on the desktop and a Raspberry Pi
. FOALE AEROSPACE’s system, which it calls the Solar Pilot Guard (SPG)
, is a solar-charged probe that identifies and helps prevent loss-of-control (LOC) events during airplane flight. Using sensors to detect changes in the acceleration and air pressure, the system calculates the probability of each data point (an instance in time) to be in-family (normal flight) or out-of-family (non-normal flight/possible LOC event), and issues the pilot voice commands over a Bluetooth speaker. The system uses classical functions to interpolate the dynamic pressure changes around the airplane axes; then, through several layers of Wolfram’s automatic machine learning framework, it assesses when LOC is imminent and instructs the user on the proper countermeasures they should take.