This is taken from a concept that I sent to the Department of Civil Aviation in Melbourne (Australia) in 1996. It has been updated to keep up with technology.
The new Black Box is a Virtual Box.
Digital Cameras record every passenger, every movement, every moment inside the cockpit, at the same time as all telemetry is recorded from all instruments.
This information is held on SSD (Solid State Drives) for the duration of the flight on board every aircraft. The space required is less than a shoe box, the weight, less than a kilogram, the cost around $10,000 per unit. (The Virtual Box)
As the data is recorded it is beamed to satellites and bounced to nearby ground based collection points.
When the plane lands, the aircrew hand the Virtual Box to ground staff, and that data is held until all passengers and cargo have left the airport without incident. The Virtual Box is then erased and made available for the next outbound flight.
Similarly, external data collection points en route hold copies of their Geographical Section of Virtual Box data until notified that the flight number is cleared. That data can either be re-used in flight simulation, security simulation, maintenance or simply erased.
By sending the data via radio link, the data is held separately from the aircraft. This is the greatest security feature, as that data can be examined even if there is a total loss of the aircraft.
Because all telemetry is being sent to a ground base, it may be possible to examine mechanical/electrical faults in-flight by specialist ground based engineers. This is the same basic data movement structure as is used between ground control and a space craft in flight.
The amount of data capture is almost irrelevant as the ability to transfer data in high speed packets to satellites has increased dramatically and will continue to do so. In many cases, where flights are only over land, not sea, data can be sent to ground based collection points, reducing transmission traffic to satellites.
Suspicious activity onboard the aircraft can be examined in minute detail – often during flight.
While Air Traffic Control looks closely at aircraft in their own immediate vicinity, it would be possible to have the ‘internal information’ of a flight continuously monitored from the ground – with information relayed triggering certain presets that may be passed on to relevant medical, security, mechanical, electrical or governmental agencies.