Researchers See Clear Air Turbulence

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German researchers have developed a system that uses lasers mounted on aircraft to "see" clear air turbulence ahead of the plane. At the German Aerospace Center DLR Institute of Atmospheric physics, researchers have designed a light detection and ranging (LIDAR) instrument for that purpose. It sends a beam of short-wave ultraviolet laser radiation into the air and measures backscatter from air molecules to determine air density.  And, from density differentials, it can provide information regarding the state of turbulence in the air ahead of the aircraft. The technology is being tested in Germany, through August. Use of the LIDAR technology is part of a larger clear air turbulence detection project.

Use of LIDAR to detect or predict clear air turbulence was developed as part of the European project Demonstration of LIDAR based Clear Air Turbulence detection (DELICAT). The test aircraft is a Cessna Citation, modified under the program and operated by the project's Dutch partner, National Aerospace Laboratory. The team's long-term goal is to create a turbulence detection system that can be integrated into aircraft, allowing future pilots to predict turbulence with greater accuracy and to warn passengers, or divert around areas of intense disturbances.