Acoustic System Aims To Track Wake Vortices

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Tests have been extended for another six months of an experimental acoustic technology system that could detect and track wake vortices. The sensor, called Socrates, is being developed by Flight Safety Technologies together with Lockheed Martin, with funding from NASA. The system employs an acoustic technique borrowed from underwater sonar that uses lasers as microphones to pick up sound generated by the vortices. Listening posts are set two miles north of Runway 16 Left at Denver International Airport, and aim to detect changes in the air within 1,200 feet of the surface. If the system proves reliable, it could help busy runways to handle up to 25 percent more traffic by eliminating unnecessary wake turbulence spacing. "O'Hare has a real need for this tool," William Cotton, president of Flight Safety Technologies, told the Chicago Tribune. "It would be the equivalent of building a new runway for a whole lot less than the $2 billion or more it costs to build a runway." The additional six months of testing will enable the company to incorporate and evaluate improvements to the system. It will also try out various configurations, first looking straight up into the arrival path, and then surveying a broader area along the flight path. If results are positive, further tests will be implemented next year.