Scientists are testing a new system that can detect turbulence by monitoring minor changes in the air.
The DLR German Aerospace Center has developed a laser-based measurement device that can detect turbulence by monitoring minor changes in the air. A LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) instrument can be installed on board an aircraft, which emits short-wave UV laser radiation along the direction of flight.
The method, which was developed under a European joint project called DELICAT (Demonstration of LIDAR based Clear Air Turbulence detection), could enable pilots to warn passengers to stay seated or to fly around the affected region. Clean-air turbulence (CAT) occurs independently of cloud cover, is invisible and cannot be accurately predicted. For both passengers and crew, this could mean an increased risk of falls and accidents.
In future it may be possible to calculate where air turbulence is, using laser measurements to generate the required data. The idea is to identify in advance any minor changes in the density and speed of the air along the flight path and use this to detect and predict CAT from a distance. The project DELICAT test flights currently taking place are being used to demonstrate the measurement process and the functioning of the new technology.