Easyjet is preparing for the final stages of testing its ash-detection technology, known as AVOID.
It has flown a tonne of volcanic ash from Iceland to then transport to an Airbus base in France later this summer. Together with its partners, Airbus and Nicarnica, the airline plans to carry out a major experiment to put the technology to the ultimate test.
An Airbus test plane will disperse the ash into the atmosphere at an unconfirmed location during the month of August. A second Airbus test aircraft, fitted with AVOID technology, will detect and avoid the artificial ash cloud at over 30,000ft.
The experiment will be timed to coincide with the alignment of the Seviri and Calypso satellites, so they can image the ash cloud from space. This will hopefully prove the accuracy and effectiveness of the technology, which uses infrared technology developed by the US military, to supply images to pilots and an airline’s operations control centre.
“The threat from Icelandic volcanoes continues and so finalising the approval of the AVOID technology is as crucial now as ever to ensure we never again see the scenes of spring 2010 when all flying ceased for several days,” said Ian Davies, Easyjet’s engineering director.
The images captured by AVOID will enable pilots to see an ash cloud up to 100km ahead of the aircraft at altitudes between 5,000ft and 50,000ft, and avoid it where possible.