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Students aim to solve aural discomfort in-flight

As part of the Airbus ‘Fly Your ideas’ competition, a group of students from Rome La Sapienza University has devised AURES, a concept designed to prevent the symptoms of barotrauma; pain in the ears caused by the change in pressure as an aircraft ascends or descends.
Under the academic mentorship of Franco Mastroddi, the AURES team consists of Roberta Cumbo, Agnese Caprara, Andrea Facchinetti Forlani and Giuseppe Bucciaglia, who are studying for Masters degrees in aeronautical engineering, and Corinna Cerini, a space engineering student.

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ttttFrom left to right: Roberta Cumbo,Giuseppe Bucciaglia, Agnese Caprara,Andrea Facchinetti Forlani and Corinna Cerini

Caprara explained, “AURES is an acronym for ‘Avoiding Uncomfortable Rate for Ear Safety’ and spells out the Latin word for ‘ears.’”
“The aim of our project is to deliver the right rate of pressure to an individual passenger in order to prevent the onset of pain and discomfort caused by barotrauma,” said Cumbo. “Our proposed solution is a device which is basically composed of a mask and headphones which allow the opening of the eustachian tube to form a pressure balance between the outer and the middle ear.”
“The system is composed by a fixed part (linked to an on-board system) and a portable device,” Cerini continues. “The components of the on-board system are: an air cylinder, to provide the air for passenger respiration; an electronic pressure regulator connected to a microprocessor, to guarantee the right gradient of pressure and the right flow rate during the descending phase of the flight; and a filter, to reuse part of the tube.

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ttttA diagram showing the fixed component of the AURES device

t“The portable device components are the mask and headphones, which are used to recreate a condition in which the desired gradient of pressure is provided for the passenger.”

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ttttA diagram showing the portable component of the AURES device

When Inflight-Online.com saw the above diagram, we asked the AURES team if they thought passengers would be hesitant to wear something cumbersome and unattractive. Bucciaglia responded, “The device is designed for people that suffer from serious discomfort in-flight. We conducted a survey with 550 people, of which 81% responded saying they’d be willing to tolerate wearing an AURES device if it would solve their problem.”
Could it be used to create ancillary revenue as well as improving the passenger experience? As part of their research the students asked how much passengers feel the AURES device should cost. 65% of respondents felt it should be less than €20, which shows it’s something passengers would contemplate paying for. Furthermore, of the 26% which believed the device should be free, 27% said if it came to it, they would be also willing to pay.
“In terms of our images, they show a rough sketch representing the main components of the device,” concluded Facchinetti Forlani. “The real version will reduction of the dimension of each component as much as possible and the choice of materials and colour will make it more pleasing to the eye. We have a few ideas for the future development and improvement of AURES.”
Whilst it may not be aesthetically pleasing, it certainly seems to Inflight-Online.com that the students have identified a gap in the passenger experience which is yet to be catered for.

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