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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
3G takes to the skies
Cockpit of research airplane
Pictures were sent from the cockpit via 3G
The next generation of mobile phone technology is taking to the skies.

Technology firm Siemens has been running tests on the viability of airborne fast networks, using third generation (3G) mobile technology.

It found that 3G could improve safety, security and air traffic management.

The technology has been tested on board a research aircraft at Boscombe Down in Salisbury.

Live video of activities in the cockpit and cabin was transmitted to researchers on the ground, with still photographs taken by a webcam.

A voice call was made while another passenger browsed the internet and watched a video streamed from a server on the ground.

Black box

As well as offering passengers web and e-mail access, 3G on planes could provide a valuable new channel for communications between pilot and air traffic control staff.

Europe's skies have never been busier and the aviation industry is running short of radio spectrum.

3G could offer an alternative line of communication as well as acting as a live black box, eliminating the search for the equipment if the aircraft crashes.

The next stage will be to test the technology in a commercial airline on an extended route.

Siemens predicts that 3G in planes will become standard in five years' time.

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