Ryerson researchers to make air travel more comfortable with smart technology

Travelling by airplane can be an uncomfortable experience and customers are increasingly requesting better seats and improved cabin environments to make trips more relaxing and enjoyable. In a major new research project, Ryerson University professor of aerospace engineering Fengfeng (Jeff) Xi is working with Bombardier to revolutionize comfort on aircraft with the help of smart technology.

Professor Fengfeng (Jeff) Xi is developing new technology from his base at the Ryerson Aerospace Engineering Centre. Ryerson Photo
Professor Fengfeng (Jeff) Xi is developing new technology from his base at the Ryerson Aerospace Engineering Centre. Ryerson Photo

During the five-year project, Xi and his team will develop a cabin design prototype that is reconfigurable based on customer demands and that includes state-of the-art features for monitoring and controlling passenger well-being.

The research focuses on four main areas: seating, noise control, visual experience and air quality. The design will include sensors that monitor each passenger’s comfort and then relay this feedback to the control system so it can make adjustments. This technology will combine with customizable, modular seating that can accommodate multiple body sizes and shapes to enhance the in-flight experience for travellers.

“Comfort is a major issue in aviation, especially for long-distance flights,” said Xi. “Airplanes are traditionally designed for performance, not really for comfort, but now more and more passengers and airlines are asking for comfort improvement.”

The research team will install the new system designs in an aircraft cabin located at the Ryerson Aerospace Engineering Centre, which is part of the Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research hub. Xi says that the new project is unique because of its complexity and the high number of different electronic devices that are being incorporated into the prototype.

“It’s very exciting in terms of doing research that has a direct application in the industry,” he said.


To enable the research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has named Xi the NSERC/Bombardier senior industrial research chair in Advanced Interiors and Systems. This award provides an investment worth almost $3.3 million in funding and in-kind contributions from Ryerson, Bombardier and NSERC. Xi has worked with Bombardier for more than eight years and so far they have completed three NSERC-funded projects as part of the collaboration.

“The Industrial Research Chair program allows our outstanding researchers to establish and maintain strong partnerships with leading industrial partners and take their innovations from the lab to the real world,” said Steven N. Liss, vice-president, Research and Innovation at Ryerson. “Professor Xi and Bombardier have a long, successful association that continues to push new technological boundaries in the aviation industry. Many congratulations to Professor Xi on securing this valuable funding for his exciting research project.”

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