Looking Beyond The Horizon

Innovative Technologies & Services

A smarter turbulence detection system for the airlines

Posted by evolvingwheel on September 11, 2007

It was Aug, 2001. I took the first flight from Chicago to Columbus on a cloudy morning. 30 minutes into the flight, and the plane started bumping all over as we flew through the layers of dark clouds. Lightning sparked around us as the pilot tried his best to dodge the turbulence. Several of the passengers became nauseated. The ordeal lasted for nearly 30 minutes.

Well, the uncertainty and the pain associated with air-travel turbulence may be coming to an end. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has partnered with United Airlines to test the efficacy of a turbulence detection system that alerts pilots to patches of rough air as they fly through clouds.

The new system uses a mathematical method developed by NCAR scientists, known as the NEXRAD Turbulence Detection Algorithm, or NTDA, to analyze data obtained from the National Weather Service’s network of Next-Generation (NEXRAD) Doppler radars. The resulting real-time snapshot of turbulence can be transmitted to pilots in the cockpit and made available to airline meteorologists and dispatchers via a Web-based display. Clear air turbulence

The algorithm analyzing the data from the Doppler radars is a great leap forward. It has always been difficult to pinpoint turbulence foci in different vertical and lateral cross sections of clouds. The new algorithm analyzes the radar data and is able to create a three-dimensional picture of turbulent patches. If tested properly and launched successfully commercially, it could benefit the airlines industry by saving damage repair costs, injury claims, and fuel costs. The early detection system will be a boon for the ATC and the pilots too.

Read the [article] here.

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