easyJet to trial ash detector to prevent future disruption

easyJet is run trials of a new technology called AVOID (airborne volcanic object identifier and detector) which aims to minimise future disruption from volcanic activity.

The airline will be the first airline to trial the system, essentially a weather radar for ash, created by Dr Fred Prata of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU). AVOID is a system that involves placing infrared technology onto an aircraft to supply images to both the pilots and an airline’s flight control centre.

The images will enable pilots to see an ash cloud up to 100 km ahead of the aircraft and at altitudes between 5,000 ft and 50,000 ft. Pilots will then be able to make adjustments to the aircraft’s flight path to avoid any ash cloud. The concept is very similar to current standard weather radars.

On the ground, information from aircraft with AVOID would be used to build an accurate image of the location and size of a volcanic ash cloud using real time data. This would open up large areas of airspace that would otherwise be closed during a volcanic eruption, which would benefit passengers by minimising disruption.

Commenting on the development, Andrew Haines, chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said, “It is essential that the aviation community works together to develop solutions to minimise disruption, should ash return. The CAA welcomes the fact that airlines are considering innovations such as this and we will do all we can to facilitate them.”

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