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Express delivery

FedEx is the world’s largest express transportation company, but the range of goods which FedEx ships can expose its planes to danger - therefore designing a fire suppression system required reliable prototyping tools.

As global trade continues to proliferate, the role of the courier companies gets increasingly important to organisations around the world. Using a range of methods, companies such as FedEx and UPS can get everything from A4 envelopes to pallet loads of technology to the other side of the world in little more than the blink of an eye.
FedEx is the world’s largest express transportation company, providing delivery to more than 220 countries and territories around the world. Using the FedEx Express air and ground network, shipments can usually be delivered in one to two business days.
But the range of goods which FedEx ships can expose its planes to danger: there is a very slim chance that the contents of a shipment might catch fire. And fire is the last thing you want on an airplane, particularly when it’s on a transoceanic route.
While there are fire suppression systems supplied with the aircraft which FedEx uses, the company recently decided to develop a cost effective and reliable fire suppression system for the main deck of FedEx Express aircraft to prevent catastrophic fires within the aircraft and to keep pilots, packages and planes safe from fires that may start in the shipping containers. Ventura Aerospace was commissioned to prototype and deploy the control solution for the system and to do so on a very aggressive deployment schedule.
The system monitors the temperature and controls the suppression system that deploys foam into a container if a fire is detected. Ventura was able to rapidly prototype its system for FedEx using LabVIEW and CompactRIO and to create a final deployed solution using NI Single-Board RIO – all in less than a year.
In the final systems, NI Single-Board RIO devices act as the primary control system in the fire suppression application. Two devices within each plane use a NI Single-Board RIO – the Fire Control Unit and the Fire Control Hub.
The Fire Control Hub – which is responsible for checking safety interlocks, power distribution, and communication – is at the centre of the system. It contains an NI Single-Board RIO device, a power supply, a signal conditioning daughterboard built by Ventura and an Ethernet switch.
The Fire Control Unit, meanwhile, contains an NI Single-Board RIO device and a daughterboard developed by Ventura. The Fire Control Unit reads temperatures from 16 infrared sensors, then processes and records the data.

Jeremy Snow and Troy Ingram

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