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By Beth Bacheldor

FAA Publishes Draft Revised Advisory for RFID Use on Aviation Products, Equipment

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has published a revised advisory circular (AC) that offers guidance on installing and using RFID systems on aviation products and equipment. The revised advisory circular, known as AC 20-162A, provides guidance for the proper installation and use of passive RFID tags as installed on aircraft parts and components. The revision overrides an older version, AC 20-162, issued on Sept. 22, 2008.

This AC includes the latest revision of SAE International's Aerospace Standard (AS) 5678A for passive RFID tags intended for aircraft use. The standard spells out requirements regarding a tag's ability to withstand specific variations in temperature, air pressure, vibration, shock and other environmental factors. The revised-draft AC removes guidance on operational approval of RFID tags and airworthiness approval of low-power active RFID tags or battery-assisted passive RFID tags, while adding criteria to prevent changes to the tags' identification record and data. It covers only passive UHF RFID tags installed on aircraft, engines, propellers, parts and components, and does not cover RFID tags that communicate via cellular or satellite telephone technology, wireless wide-area networks, high-power radio transmitters or other types of tracking devices. The draft AC also does not cover battery-assisted passive RFID tags or active RFID tags.

The draft-revised AC affects manufacturers and modifiers of aviation products and equipment that want to install passive RFID tags on 14 CFR parts 23, 25, 27, 29, 33, and 35 aircraft, as well as aircraft engines, propellers, parts and components thereof. The draft AC is not mandatory and does not constitute a regulation, according to the FAA. Rather, it describes an acceptable means, but not the only means, of complying with these requirements. The draft AC does specify, however, that if organizations use the means described in this AC, they follow it in all important aspects. The term "must" is used to indicate mandatory requirements when following the guidance, while the term "should" is used to indicate that the guidance is recommended, but not required, to comply with this AC.

The FAA is seeking comments, which are due on Feb. 8, 2016. Comments can be mailed, faxed or hand-delivered. More information is available at the FAA's website.

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