Wake Turbulence Detector Under Development

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A "relatively simple" onboard wake-turbulence detector is being developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Germany. The device, which uses mirrors and laser pulses to detect turbulence in front of an airplane, could help reduce congestion and the hazard created by vortex drag. "We are cooperating with eight teams from four different countries to develop a sensor which can determine whether the air is calm enough for a safe takeoff," said spokesman Thomas Peschel. The device sends laser pulses ahead of the aircraft, scanning the air seven times a second. Minute dust particles reflect the laser light and the Doppler effect of moving particles is calculated by onboard software to detect turbulence in the air. The machine could eventually give pilots a snapshot of the turbulence ahead at the touch of a button. Although designed for big iron, it's small enough to be tested on a Cessna.