Airbus is conducting similar test with its A380 Super Jumbo airliner. The plane will have 10,000 RFID tags and is expected to take flight next May.
The tags will shave a substantial portion of time dedicated to ground inspection, both companies say.
For instance, Porad said, two crew members normally take up to 30 minutes to carry out the required inspection of onboard passenger lifejackets. "With the hand held readers and RFID tags, this now only takes six minutes."
RFID tagging will help eliminate errors in tracking a part's origin and will assist repair crews in determining the part's specific application, according to Art Smith, president and CEO of Electronic Product Code global (EPCglobal) Canada, a non-profit organization developing industry standards for electronic products.
"Often manually written serial numbers on service logs can be easily misinterpreted. An electronic trail can precisely tell the repair crew which part should go where."
The tags being installed in the Dreamliner cover a one- to four inch square area and contain up to 64,000 bits of data. The passive tags transmit signals at 860 to 960 megahertz when activated by an Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) reader.
The ceramic covered tags mounted on the jets engine will be able to handle temperature ranges from -40 degrees to 649 degrees Celsius.
Meanwhile work is also progressing on the testing of active RFID tags.
While passive tags only transmit data when activated by readers, active tags can be programmed to send out signals at pre-determined intervals of when alarms are set off, according to Smith. "These will be event driven devices, which with the help of IP network technology will further improve aircraft part maintenance."
For instance, parts with active RFID tags can immediately send out signals when temperature of stress levels it is exposed to exceed allowable limits.
Porad said Boeing and FedEx are testing how active tags can monitor conditions on an MD-10 air freighter.
The battery powered tags will contain a 915 megahertz microchip and will be readable from 200 feet.