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November 2006 edition

Developing radar that ‘sees’ turbulence

By Richard Kleebaur

For the first time worldwide, EADS researchers have successfully flight-tested a laser system which detects turbulence occurring ahead of an aircraft.

Abrupt aircraft motions caused by flying through gusts or wind shear are not only annoying to passengers; the effects of turbulence are actually among the most frequent causes of injury incurred in flight. All the way up to the clear air at higher cruising altitudes, occasional aerologic phenomena can be encountered unexpectedly and can be quite severe. And since structural loads due to gusts are criteria influencing the design and weight of an aircraft’s wings, plane makers have plenty of incentive to devise a system that can detect and measure turbulence and then have the flight control system automatically counteract its effects.

Thanks to their multidisciplinary know-how and successful earlier work in the field of laser detection, researchers at the Optronics Systems department at the EADS Corporate Research Centre (CRC) in Ottobrunn near Munich were chosen to participate in the European Commission’s AWIATOR (Aircraft Wing with Advanced Technology Operation) technology program. This groundbreaking project has an overall budget of EUR80 million and is co-funded to the tune of 50% as part of the 5th Research Framework Program of the European Union. AWIATOR is coordinated by Airbus and bundles the know-how and research potential....

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