Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New radar system may help airplanes avoid in-flight icing

11.03.2004


The buildup of ice on airplanes in flight is a major winter hazard for small and commuter planes. But scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., are testing a new system this month that may pinpoint water droplets in clouds that cause icing, potentially enabling pilots to avoid dangerous areas.

The system, known as S-Polka, combines two existing radars that use different wavelengths. By studying the differences between the images that are reflected back to each radar, scientists hope to find tiny water droplets that are difficult to distinguish using either radar alone. The project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is NCAR’s primary sponsor, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"NSF continues to invest in fundamental science while recognizing opportunities for the broader impacts of the research it supports," said Cliff Jacobs, program director in NSF’s division of atmospheric sciences. "This new effort is a clear link between knowledge that benefits society and fundamental studies of our atmosphere."



"This will take out a lot of the guess work," explains Marcia Politovich, director of NCAR’s icing program. "We think it will show exactly where the water is. That information could ultimately turn into an important warning system for pilots."

Scientists and engineers at NCAR are deploying S-Polka through the end of March at NCAR’s Marshall facility southeast of Boulder. The system consists of a powerful polarized radar, known as S-Pol, which operates at a frequency of 3,000 MHz, and a polarized Ka-band radar, which operates at 35,000 MHz. The S-Pol radar produces detailed images of clouds and precipitation, whereas the Ka-band radar can detect weaker clouds that are not precipitating. By comparing the images from each radar, researchers hope to find areas in clouds that harbor water droplets.

Finding cloud water droplets has long posed a scientific challenge. The droplets are 50 microns or less in diameter, just one-tenth the size of raindrops. They may remain in liquid form even when the surrounding air temperature drops below freezing. The droplets are most dangerous at that time because they adhere to aircraft wings and then freeze, reducing the plane’s aerodynamic properties.

Unfortunately, existing radar often cannot detect the droplets if they are surrounded by larger raindrops or snow. Even if small cloud particles are detected, a radar signal cannot indicate whether they are droplets or ice crystals.

"When it comes to cloud particles, we can’t interpret the standard radar echo," explains NCAR’s Jothiram Vivekanandan, the lead scientist on the project. "This research is very challenging."

The two radars have been mounted on a single pedestal at the Marshall facility. They are precisely aligned to look at the same defined area at the same time. Researchers will compare the radar images with data collected from a University of North Dakota Citation research airplane flying in the test area to determine whether the radar system is pinpointing water droplets.

After data are collected this month, the researchers will focus on identifying and measuring droplets within the radar images accurately. If all goes well, the instrument will undergo final tests in a couple of years before being made available to airports.

Notable Icing Crashes:
  • In-flight icing downed the small plane carrying 1950s rock and roll legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson). All three musicians and the pilot died when their plane crashed soon after take-off from Mason City, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 1959.

  • An American Eagle ATR-72 went into a high-speed dive and crashed near Roselawn, Ind., on Oct. 31,1994. As the plane circled for a half hour waiting to land in Chicago, ice forming on the wings caused the crew to lose control. None of the 68 people aboard survived.

  • An Embraer 120RT en route from Cincinnati crashed on approach to the Detroit airport on Jan. 9, 1997, killing all 29 people on board. At the time, other aircraft in the area were reporting icing minor to very heavy.

Cheryl Dybas | NSF
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov
http://www.nsf.gov/home/news.html

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Tool helps cities to plan electric bus routes, and calculate the benefits
09.01.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Realistic training for extreme flight conditions
28.12.2016 | Technical University of Munich (TUM)

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The interactome of infected neural cells reveals new therapeutic targets for Zika

23.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>