EasyJet’s Cloud-Cam to AVOID Chaos

easyJet Aircraft

easyJet leads the way

The budget carrier EasyJet, has unveiled a ‘cloud-cam’ device to detect volcanic ash plumes and designed to ensure that the global flight chaos sparked by the Icelandic volcano will never happen again.

The airline said the technology could detect ash clouds from up to 100 kilometres away.

The technology developed by NILU-Norwegian Institute for Air Research. aims in the near future to enable aircraft to detect the ash from an eruption well in advance.

Easyjet hopes to be the first airline in the world to test the gadget, called AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector), which works in a similar way to weather radars now used on planes, it said.

NILU Senior scientist Fred Prata who developed the ground-breaking volcanic ash detector says it allows the aircraft to see the microscopic ash particles and avoid them. A specially developed camera gives five minute warnings both day and night about ash ahead. Even better detection through the models is being developed at NILU at this very moment, aim to ensure that the volcanic crisis and overreaction that followed “will be avoided in the future”.

Prata says: “Using the infrared camera, satellite data and algorithms that convert data from satellites, aircraft will be obtain the necessary notifications every time they approach a volcanic ash cloud. The aircraft will then be able to steer clear of clouds and continue the journey instead of being expensively grounded for indefinite periods”.

volcanic ash

Fred Prata, Senior scientist at NILU (photo: NILU)

Test flights are expected to be carried out by the Toulouse-based European aircraft maker Airbus within two months. EasyJet aims to have it installed on a dozen aircraft by year end at a cost of 1.2 million euros.

“This pioneering technology will make large-scale ash disruption history,” easyJet chief executive Andy Harrison said. “The ash detector will enable our aircraft to see and avoid the ash cloud, just like airborne weather radars and weather maps make thunderstorms visible,” he added.

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul ash plume caused havoc to travellers across Europe in mid-April, cost the airline industry millions of euros, angered passengers and seriously disrupted air travel around the world for weeks.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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