SUNY Fredonia professor issued patent for flight tracking technology

Inventor says technology eliminates the need to search for so called "black boxes"

FREDONIA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Junaid Zubairi has come up with software technology that he believes has the potential to render obsolete so called “black boxes” found on airplanes.

Zubairi began work on the “Flight Data Tracker” several years ago. He was issued a patent for the invention last month.

It’s designed to transmit data in real-time to servers located at airports along the flight path.

“We have hundreds of airports scattered around the country and they all have radio links. So this can be done very easily with the domestic sector,” Zubairi said during a campus news conference Monday.

He suggests that the use of black boxes on planes could begin to be phased out within the next two years.

The Flight Data Tracker would eliminate the need to search for a flight data recorder in the event of an airline crash, he said.

“If the flight ends abruptly due to an accident, the data available in the (ground-based) server would allow the investigation into the crash to start immediately instead of searching for the black box,” Zubairi explained.

“Within one year we should be able to demonstrate an actual working system with the black box, it’s interface and the computer, the network and transmitting to something around the world,” he added.

He says the real-time component also makes it useful for ground-based monitoring of flights.

Information to be sent to ground-level servers includes engine data, such as oil pressure and airspeed, as well as altitude, roll, pitch, thrust, heading and other parameters.

The technology involves transmitting data to a string of servers through existing UHF radio links. For international flights, satellites would be used when UHF radio links are not available.

Four Fredonia undergraduate students assisted Zubairi in various development aspects.

Zubairi says one of the potential roadblocks is that the Federal Aviation Administration does not mandate sending real-time data to the ground.

He sees the invention as “potentially disruptive” because it could force the aviation industry to redesign flight data tracking with new features and possibilities.

The SUNY Research Foundation helped Zubairi apply for the patent, and is providing marketing assistance to help get it off the ground.

“I think there’s also potential for collaborating with some of the companies. Boeing possibly, some of the other aircraft manufacturers, to begin to experiment with what these systems might look like in advance of a mandate,” said Steven Wood, assistant director of Innovation Services with the SUNY Research Foundation.

The Flight Data Tracker patent is a big deal for SUNY Fredonia.

“For a comprehensive institution like ours, to have a patent, it’s extraordinary,” said Teresa Brown, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at SUNY Fredonia.

“When faculty are able to make this kind of a contribution, it really stands out. So we’re very proud. This is a very proud moment for us,” she said. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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