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easyJet to deploy volcanic-ash detecting sensors

Nov. 14, 2013, Luton, U.K. - U.K. low-cost carrier easyJet is planning to deploy sensors on its aircraft, enabling them to detect and estimate concentrations of volcanic ash in the atmosphere.


November 14, 2013
By aerospace-technology.com

easyJet, together with its partners, Airbus and Nicarnica Aviation, announced the successful completion of the trial for the 'Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector' (AVOID) technology by creating an artificial ash cloud.

Designed by Dr.  Fred Prata of Nicarnica Aviation, the AVIOD system, similar to weather radars concept, uses infrared technology on the aircraft to supply images to pilots and an airline's operations control centre.

Information from AVOID system on aircraft will help the control centre build an accurate image of the volcanic ash cloud using real-time data, opening up large areas of airspace that would otherwise be closed during a volcanic eruption.

The trial saw an A400M Airbus test jet releasing one tonne of Icelandic ash into the atmosphere at between 9,000 ft. and 11,000 ft. Another Airbus test aircraft, an A340-300, that was fitted with the AVOID technology flew towards the ash cloud, detecting and measuring it from about 60 km away.

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"This invention could become a useful solution for commercial aviation to prevent large-scale disruption from volcanic ash."
This testing also used a small aircraft, a Diamond DA42 from Duesseldorf University of Applied Sciences, to fly into the ash cloud in order to take measurements to confirm the measurements made by the system.

easyJet engineering director Ian Davies said that the threat from Icelandic volcanoes continues, so a solution was required.

"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," Davies said.

"This is a key step in the final journey of testing the technology and moving towards commercial certification. easyJet will now work towards a non-integrated stand-alone system which we aim to fit onto a number of our current fleet of aircraft by the end of 2014."

Airbus executive vice-president and engineering head Charles Champion said: "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."