Feeds

Cheap laser could help save expensive aircraft

UNSW pitches ice-proof alternative to conventional airspeed monitors

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The Pitot tube is ubiquitous on aircraft because it offers a cheap, reliable and accurate way to measure airspeed. But the device is also vulnerable to icing, which is why a group from the University of New South Wales wants now wants to supplement the airspeed indicator with lasers.

Using the low-cost Doppler techniques found in the computer mouse, the researchers say they can provide an icing-immune speed sensor in which none of the important components are exposed to the weather.

Icing of the tube – whose measurement of air pressure is converted into a measurement of airspeed – has been implicated in a number of accidents, including possibly the crash of Air France flight 447.

The UNSW approach is simple enough: embed a low-cost laser in the aircraft, where temperature can be controlled, give it a window, and reflect it off a handy surface – such as the Pitot tube, as shown in the artist’s impression.

Artist's impression of the laser sensor. Source: UNSW

Velocity is easy to measure thanks to Doppler shift of light absorbed by the oxygen molecules passing through the beam, according to Dr Sean O’Byrne of the university’s School of Engineering and Information Technology.

“The technology we have developed measures airspeed like a Pitot tube, but doesn’t have something poking out into the air. It has a window, which can be built into a recess in the body of the plane, and which can be heated. This also means, in sudden icing situations, it can be kept out of the wind,” he says.

The system has now been tested in a Defence Science and Technology wind-tunnel in Melbourne, and O’Byrne plans to scale-down his proof-of-concept for a test flight. The university says the idea for the laser sensor came from its work on the SCRAMSPACE project, in which UNSW is a collaborator with the University of Queensland and other institutions. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.