Finally, a sensor that can detect ash clouds! Easyjet tests ‘AVOID’ system …

November 14, 2013
By
  • AVOID uses infra-red which allows pilots to see ash plumes 62 miles ahead
  • System shows images of ash to aircrew, allowing them to change course
  • Images are also sent back to ground control to create an ash cloud map
  • EasyJet aims to fit AVOID systems on a number of its aircraft by 2015

By
Ellie Zolfagharifard

13:29, 13 November 2013


|

16:22, 13 November 2013

The immense ash clouds that erupted from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in 2010 caused chaos for the airline industry.

No one really knew if it would be safe to fly, and technology to accurately detect the plumes of ash had yet to be developed.

Since then, easyJet has been working on a system known as AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector) that it claims will prevent ash clouds disrupting flights.

Scroll down for videos…

AVOID

Easyjet has been working on a system known as AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector) that it claims will prevent ash clouds disrupting flights in the future

The group today flew a commercial aircraft through the first-ever artificial ash cloud to see if  the sensor could detect the plumes.

In the test, an A400M Airbus plane dispersed one tonne of Icelandic ash into the atmosphere at between 9,000ft and 11,000ft.

This created conditions consistent with the 2010 eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull.

A second Airbus test aircraft, an A340-300, with the AVOID technology fitted, flew towards the ash cloud identifying and measuring it from around 40 miles away.

A400M Airbus test

An A400M Airbus plane released a cloud of ash as part of test to see how passenger aircraft can cope with volcanic eruptions

Avoid

From inside the A400M test aircraft, Icelandic ash was extracted then dispersed into the atmosphere as part of the AVOID system testing

 

HOW DOES ‘AVOID’ WORK?

The AVOID system uses infra-red technology that allows pilots to see the damaging ash plumes up to 62 miles ahead between 5,000 and 50,000 ft.

The system shows images of ash to aircrew, allowing them to change flight path.

The images are also sent back to ground control where data from different aircraft can help create a detailed ash cloud map.

The experiment also used a small aircraft, a Diamond DA42 from Dusseldorf University of Applied Sciences in Germany, to fly into the ash cloud to take measurements which help to corroborate the measurements made by the AVOID system.

The ash cloud produced during the test was between 600ft and 800ft deep measuring about 1.75 miles in diameter.

To begin with the ash cloud was visible to the naked eye but dissipated quickly, becoming difficult to identify.

The AVOID system uses infra-red technology that allows pilots to see the damaging ash plumes up to 62 miles ahead at between 5,000 and 50,000 ft.

AVOID detected the ash cloud and measured its density which showed that it was within the range of concentrations measured during the ash crisis in April and May 2010.

Dr Fred Prata

Dr Fred Prata who invented AVOID volcanic technology is shown with the original detector at the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France

AVOID

During the testing, the AVOID volcanic sensor detected the artificial ash cloud and measured its density

 

‘The threat from Icelandic volcanoes continues and so we are delighted with the outcome of this unique and innovative experiment,’ said EasyJet’s engineering director Ian Davies.

‘Finding a solution is as crucial now as ever to ensure we never again see the scenes of spring 2010 when all flying ceased across Europe for several days.’

EasyJet said it is now working towards a non-integrated stand-alone system which its aim to fit on to a number of its current fleet of aircraft by the end of next year.

Dr Fred Prata, inventor of the AVOID technology, said: ‘The team has just executed a unique scientific and engineering experiment conclusively demonstrating that low concentrations of ash can be identified by the AVOID sensor. ‘

Eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland

Ash clouds that erupted from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in 2010 caused chaos for airliners

Airbus

A second Airbus test aircraft, an A340-300, with the AVOID technology fitted, flew towards the ash cloud identifying and measuring it from around 40 miles away

Airbus engineering head Charles Champion added: ‘We are at the beginning of an invention which could become a useful solution for commercial aviation to prevent large-scale disruption from volcanic ash.’

Explosive volcanic eruptions in Iceland happen on average once every five years.

When winds blow from the north west, the ash is transported towards Europe as it did during the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in 2010.

‘It was a coincidence that this did not happen in the seven explosive eruptions that took place between 1970 and 2010. Instead the ash was mostly carried away from Europe by southerly winds,’ said Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, from the Institute of Earth Sciences in Iceland.

‘Considering the relatively long time since the last eruptions in two of Iceland’s most active volcanoes, Hekla and Katla, both should be regarded as ready to erupt.

‘It is not possible to predict when or where the next eruption will take place. What is certain is that it will happen.’

Ash cloud

Explosive volcanic eruptions in Iceland happen on average once every five years. Pictured is an ash cloud from the volcano Eyjafjallajokull

This graphic shows which flight paths will continue to be affected by the volcanic ash cloud

This graphic reveals which flight paths were affected by the volcanic ash cloud in 2010

 


Comments (10)

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The comments below have not been moderated.

Brian,

London, United Kingdom,

5 hours ago

I have an AVOID system when it comes to EasyJet and RyanAir.

ThreeBlindMice,

Dublin, Ireland,

5 hours ago

I bet its not RADIATION resistant. The removal of 400 tons of spent rods on reactor 4 starts next week.

Ian,

Kent, United Kingdom,

6 hours ago

I guess we now need a volcano to erupt to test the device

patchi,

Chichester, United Kingdom,

7 hours ago

I bet this system could also detect a stealth aircraft.

matt,

England, United Kingdom,

9 hours ago

With the risk of looking quite stupid being quite high… Surely this device wouldn’t have made much difference in 2010, because it all it does it detect ash cloud, it doesn’t allow aircraft to fly through it. So all the aircraft would have to remain on the ground anyway because there was no way around the ash cloud looking at the graphic at the bottom of the article, for aircraft departing from the UK, at least? Or am I missing something?

Lyn,

Newport, United Kingdom,

9 hours ago

Well, they will chance anything to get some cash out of your pocket, safe or not.

fezza_37,

Cheshire,

10 hours ago

Tested by easy jet?….. Thats SCARY !!!

martin,

cheshire,

13 hours ago

one guess which came first – the acronym or the full name 😉

Julie,

Bedfordshire, United Kingdom,

13 hours ago

Marvellous, well done easyjet.

tomtelltruth,

blackpool, United Kingdom,

13 hours ago

not a problem for the worlds worst airline thomas cook — with their regular 5 hour delays you will still be on the ground

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Article source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2505453/Finally-sensor-detect-ash-clouds-Easyjet-tests-AVOID-allow-pilots-fly-volcanic-eruptions.html

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