The new Easyjet technology that could beat ash cloud flight chaos
Easyjet is testing new technology that could prevent the volcanic ash cloud flight misery that affected millions of air passengers last year.
British scientist Dr Fred Pata and his team from the Norwegian Institute of Air Research unveiled the Airborne Volcanic Object Imaging Detector (AVOID) in Sicily, and carried out a test flight over active Mt Etna on a light aircraft..
The system, he says, is simple: it uses heat-detecting cameras with satellite data and atmospheric modelling to warn pilots where an ash cloud is and where it is travelling, allowing them to detect an ash cloud ahead at altitudes between 5,000 and 50,000ft.
According to the Guardian, Dr Prata said that AVOID uses 'two fast-sampling thermal infrared cameras which make images of anything that's in front of the aircraft.
'The two cameras have been tuned to see the signature of silicates, which are the components that make up volcanic ash.
'They're able to see silicates up to 100km – maybe more – away if you're flying at 33,000ft, and that information can be relayed straight back to the pilot in the cockpit and he's able to see volcanic ash in the atmosphere ahead of the aircraft and manoeuvre around it.'
In April 2010, the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökul volcano in Iceland brought aviation across Europe to a standstill, stranding an estimated 10 million passengers across the continent.
Since then, the aviation industry has been looking for a way to prevent paralysis in the skies - especially as experts are predicting the Iceland's Katla volcano will be the next to erupt, and on a bigger scale than Eyjafjallajökul.
The research has been funded by low-cost carrier Easyjet, who last year lost around £50 million after Eyjafjallajökull's ash shut down airports and flight paths amid fears dense cloud could clog plane engines.
Dr Prata said the system should be ready for use next year, and, according to the Telegraph, explained that installing the equipment on 100 commercial aircraft would provide enough information to allow European aviation to operate as usual.
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