ATA Spec 2000 RFID offers many advantages to the aerospace industry
Safety is the overarching reason that the aerospace industry uses systems to track aircraft components throughout their lifetime. How that goal can be accomplished more efficiently and less expensively is something that’s continually being evaluated. Labeling and tracking parts with barcodes that can be read with electronic devices has been a long-standing practice, and is in many ways an improvement from using nameplates and manually recording information. But more recently, the advantages of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags are becoming apparent.
Because they employ radio waves, RFID tags don’t need to be seen to be readable. That’s a huge plus, as the tags are often obscured by panels, covered with dirt or difficult to locate on the component. The tags can be read from a distance of 1 to 5 meters, depending on conditions. Multiple tags can be read at the same time, and the tags can withstand harsh conditions.
RFID tags can store a substantial amount of information about a part in addition to its identifier. In particular, maintenance histories can be recorded. Mechanics can even write comments on the tags. Since mechanics typically spend much of their time trying to locate parts and finding their service histories, tags have the potential to greatly increase efficiency. Information recorded on the tag stays with the component throughout its lifetime and is available whenever it’s needed.
RFID tags are now included in the in the Air Transport Association’s standards for component parts tracking. ATA’s Spec 2000 standards are meant to ensure that electronic parts data can be shared among those involved in the aerospace industry: Manufacturers, suppliers, airlines, and mechanics. ATA Spec 2000 RFID covers such topics as creating a component’s, “birth record,” which is information about a part available at its time of manufacture. Formats for recording the information on tags vary, depending on the tag’s memory capacity.