Boeing calls it Project SPUDS or rather Synthetic Personnel Using Dielectric Substitution - that is, using sacks of potatoes perched on aircraft seats to test the effectiveness of wireless signal in an airliner cabin.
Boeing said it was researching an advanced way to test wireless signals in airplane and needed a way to effectively simulate say 200-300 people sitting in seats throughout the aircraft.
From Boeing: "Initially using a de-commissioned airplane, the team from Boeing Test & Evaluation laboratories conducted a series of such tests. The team determined that potatoes were ideal stand-ins for passengers, given their similar physical interactions with electronic signal properties. Much of the testing was conducted on the grounded airplane with the seats filled with 20,000 pounds of potato sacks. The test data was then validated on the ground with human stand-ins for passengers. The vegetable interactions with the radio wave signals mimic those of the human body - the perfect stand-in for people who would have had to sit motionless for days on end while test data was gathered."
Hence, SPUDS. (check out the video on the project below)
In the end what Boeing was looking to do is use a proprietary process of what it called "state-of-the-art technology and ground-breaking statistical analysis" to identify strong and weak wireless signal areas in the aircraft cabin and balance them by adjusting the network system accordingly. Once the new method was established, testing that previously took more than two weeks to conduct was reduced to 10 hours, Boeing stated.
The technology was first developed to more thoroughly and efficiently ensure that signal propagation met the regulatory safety standards that protect against interference with an aircraft's critical electrical systems, Boeing stated.
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