Comments about technological history, system fractures, and human resilience from James R. Chiles, the author of Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology (HarperBusiness 2001; paperback 2002) and The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, the Story of the Helicopter (Random House, 2007, paperback 2008)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Costa Concordia: Recommended video of VDR data and bridge audio

The ex-master of Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, is now on trial in the Court of Grosseto, Italy. 

YouTube offers a variety of reconstructions of the final voyage, but I like this one from Mario Piccinelli, of the University of Brescia. It's an overlay of bridge audio onto navigation and system-status screens. Data came from the VDR (voyage data recorder) system on Concordia.

Note the green bars on the left - that's the status of the watertight doors.

Here's a link to Mario's journal article for Digital Investigation, "Modern ships' Voyage Data Recorders: A forensics perspective on the Costa Concordia shipwreck," about the huge effort that went into extracting and rendering data generated by the ship's instruments. 

Here's a description from the article intro:

“This paper delves into the examination of data found in the VDR from the actual Costa Concordia accident in 2012, and describes the recovery of information useful for the investigation, both by deduction and by reverse engineering of the data, some of which were not even shown by the official replay software."

All that info was supposed to go onto the VDR for storage (the equivalent of the airliner's black box), but the VDR malfunctioned. Fortunately Concordia's data stream went into a temporary storage unit called the accumulator, which investigators recovered in good shape. After extracting the data the team had to make sense of what was showing in the multiple channels - the readouts were not standardized like FDRs and CVRs in airliners. 

The methods should be useful as other investigators have to rebuild data from non-standardized accident data recorders.

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