Feeds

Cheap laser could help save expensive aircraft

UNSW pitches ice-proof alternative to conventional airspeed monitors

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.