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An aircraft sensor for atmospheric hazards

Researchers have developed a sensor for aircraft for the real-time detection of wind shear and wake vortex — two little-understood atmospheric hazards. The innovative system will improve passenger and crew safety as well as airport efficiency.
An aircraft sensor for atmospheric hazards
Two major hazards for aircraft are wake vortex — powerful turbulence that follows behind an aircraft in motion through the air — and wind shear — rapid horizontal or vertical changes in wind speed. Both of these are major causes of accidents, especially at critical phases of take-off and landing. However, little is understood about either and until now the main measures to reduce risks have involved mandatory spacing between aircraft, which reduces airport efficiency.

An EU-funded research project, 'Demonstration of LIDAR based wake vortex detection system incorporating an atmospheric hazard map' (GREEN-WAKE), designed innovative technologies to provide real-time detection of these atmospheric hazards and a new concept in three-dimensional (3D) visualisation for aerospace applications.

Researchers from industry and institutes in different European countries collaborated on the four-year project. They developed an on-board sensor for aircraft based on a light detection and ranging (Lidar) system, using remote sensing with reflected lasers and two ultra-lightweight mirrors.

GREEN-WAKE team members also developed an innovative system for the 3D visualisation of atmospheric hazards and carried out extensive testing in wind tunnels to refine their system in real-life conditions.

The project has enabled, for the first time, the real-time detection of atmospheric hazards at short range. This should enhance the safety of air travel for citizens as well as improve the efficiency of airports. In addition, there is potential for the technology to be exploited in other aeronautics and space applications.

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