AVOID partners complete ash cloud trial

Airbus, Dusseldorf University, easyJet and sensing technologies specialist Nicarnica Aviation have partnered to develop a volcanic ash sensor similar to weather radar systems onboard aircraft.


AVOID partners complete ash cloud trial


Airbus, Dusseldorf University, easyJet and sensing technologies specialist Nicarnica Aviation have partnered to develop a volcanic ash sensor similar to weather radar systems onboard aircraft.

The AVOID sensor concept involves aircraft-mounted infrared sensors that can detect ash concentrations from up to 100 km away, relaying images to the cockpit and airline operations department, so pilots can adjust their flight path to avoid the ash.

“On the ground, information from aircraft with AVOID technology would be used to build an accurate image of the volcanic ash cloud using real-time data. This could open up large areas of airspace that would otherwise be closed during a volcanic eruption, which would benefit passengers by minimizing disruption,” the research partners said in a statement.

During the exercise, which marked the final stage of AVOID testing, an A400M released a tonne of fine volcanic ash into the atmosphere over the Bay of Biscay simulating conditions of the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption which is estimated to have cost the industry US$2.6 billion. It was released at 2,700-3,350 metres, measuring 183-244 metres deep and 2.8 km in diameter.

An AVOID sensor-equipped A340- 300 then flew toward the cloud to detect and estimate concentrations of volcanic ash in the atmosphere. The results were compared with measurements from within the cloud taken by a Diamond DA42 aircraft. The partners said the AVOID sensors on the A340 identified and measured the ash concentration from distances of 60 km.