Researchers at the University of Kansas in Kansas say they have perfected an acoustic vector sensing system for general aviation that might have helped prevent the fatal collision between a helicopter and a passenger plane over New York’s Hudson River Aug. 9.
The university’s application for a patent on the system is in process.
Using technology shared by Dutch researchers, Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, associate professor of aerospace engineering at KU, created the Micro-Anemometer Anti-Fouling Instrumentation and Apparati system, which uses vector sensing and a small cockpit display to provide pilots with accurate alerts within a 10-kilometer radius.
The technology was being used by Dutch company MicroFlown Technologies, but that company was not able to create a system that would work in flight conditions. Barrett-Gonzalez, using a grant from KU’s Transportation Research Institute, was able to create an anti-fouling process that allowed the system to work on aircraft.
“We took the technology, and we’ve now made it so that for a relatively low cost, we can give a general aviation pilot information on every vehicle around him, including bearing, distance, altitude and even model and manufacturer,” said Barrett-Gonzalez. “If a pilot was in a situation where another craft was nearby and collision was imminent, the system would sound an alert and urge evasive maneuvers.”
The system has been tested on a small scale and showed 100% effectiveness in being able to withstand rain, dust, dirt, debris and the rigors of flight. The system was tested with a ground setup that tracked vehicles ranging in size from a full-size helicopter to a model plane with accuracy of within less than 1 meter at distances of 10 kilometers. The system also does not rely on other aircraft having a counterpart of the system.
Barrett-Gonzalez estimated that the system would add around $10,000 to the cost of an airplane or helicopter.
“This is an inexpensive way to provide thousands and thousands of pilots with another layer of safety to help make sure that mid-air collisions don’t happen again,” said Barrett-Gonzalez, whose research was assisted by graduate students Scott Cravens and his brother, Travis Cravens, who both received bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering this spring.
For more information: KU.edu