Solving "Bird Flew" - a Feather in our Collective Caps?

Looking Ahead to the AVIANCOSH Initiative

DeTect Co Comments ("italicized")

 & Assoc. Topics


"....they do not have the staff to monitor another system in the tower nor the skillsets to decide ‘how many or what kind of birds’ represent ‘what level’ risk."  One of the distinct advantages of AVIANCOSH is that it would be a humane, yet bullying and non-discriminating sweep-clearer of airspace ahead. Whatever is there gets detected early enough for proximate (yet effective) pilot avoidance action of denser concentrations while only selected threats on the slightly amended flight-path are "zapped". Similar to the TASER'ing outcome, the feathered fiends would be rendered momentarily insensible and drop from contention, recovering at a lower altitude - to live and flight (and be tasered) yet another day. I used to be fascinated with my Father's ability to hit crows and magpies on the wing with air-rifle or shotgun. They'd simply "drop", even if they'd only taken a single pellet hit and often recovered to fly away at a lower altitude.
"One thing to note though is that birds do not always move away from threats and some species will actually respond by 'attacking' the perceived airborne cause of the threat." The distinction here is that the laser would constitute both a hit and, dependent upon aspect, a probable blinding (or at least stunned confusion) of the bird. At the instant of engagement it will be surprised and have nothing in its immediate vicinity upon which to focus or mount an aggressive response anyway. By the time it's recovered its poise, presence of mind and re-established its area surveillance, the aircraft will have swept past above. A blinded and stunned bird will tend to tumble from the sky until the effect wears off at a lower altitude. Observe aerial engagements between predator birds of prey and their victims' recovery times (and downward post-strike flight-paths) if you still cannot grasp this concept.

Aircraft avoidance action

Modern autopilots can be programmed to fly a complex approach or respond to EGPWS emergencies of urgent terrain avoidance. With real-time data inputting from AVIANCOSH detections, I'd imagine that an aircraft on climb-out or approach could easily be auto-steered on a best-fit tracking around the denser threats ahead, albeit only having to achieve quite minimal miss distances..... but all being done in concert with AVIANCOSH engagements happening up to 500 meters ahead. Only concentrated threats with a real possibility of hitting the aircraft along its projected flightpath (because of flock density) would need to be laser-hit.
 ......and sure-fire ways of coping with high flock densities

(birds, geese, flying foxes or bats /night or day)















Could AVIANCOSH react, re-charge and reset quickly enough to cope with all conceivable bird flock densities? Re-arm charging and re-fire times with modern ultra-capacitors is down to parts of a second. Typical max climb (or below 10,000ft, limited approach) speeds would be around 250kts or 7500 meters/minute (125 meters/second). Given a max range of AVIANCOSH as being nominally 500m (for at least a deterrent blow), that engagement range is equivalent to the passage of 4 seconds. Given the refresh rate of an air-cooled ultra capacitor, that's about equivalent to 8 firings per 4 seconds or a firing rate of around 120 deterrent blows per minute. Any singular bird that's mate-shielded from a max range engagement would get its "dose" over the next 3.5 seconds - if still in "the line of fire".

From this link

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    Applicability to helos and bizjets?

    (as well as military aircraft)

    Modern Helos are quite vulnerable to large birdstrikes because of high speeds, sensitively balanced composite main-rotor blades and no survival options if it's a disabling or totally imbalancing blade-strike (versus an engine ingestion). The smaller engine inlets of bizjets, especially those with rear-mount engines, are likely to take hits upfront (cockpit and nose/radome/wings) and then, because of design airflow patterns, ingest the debris. Jet and turbo-props alike are likely to benefit from the combination solution that is AVIANCOSH (the forward-facing under-nose/over-cockpit cupola) and its complementary rear-facing de-ice/anti-ice profile-mapping and ice-removing cupola-mounted solution called "Laissez-Faire" (see prior emailed article).

    "It also requires a pragmatic, common sense, realistic approach in developing procedures to use the technology operationally."

    "The most widely used bird radars in use today additionally include dedicated radars for each runway that scan the runway and flight corridors out to 4 miles, continually monitoring bird activity in the corridor and converting it to a relative risk level (LOW, MODERATE or SEVERE) with specific detail as to where the activity is located.  Before an aircraft takes off or lands, the bird radar is used (in a way) analogous to ‘looking both ways before crossing the street’  . . .  before a plane departs on a runway, the radar is checked to ensure that the corridor is ‘clear’ of high risk bird activity." 

    However my view is that a BIRDAR monitor would end up like a ground-surveillance radar in many busy ATC centers. It would subside into disuse and merely provide taped history for accident investigators. Many ASR detected ground conflicts - pilots take-off runway (or taxiway departure) mistakes or runway incursions - have been detected by surface radars, but very few such AMASS alerts have been timely and allowed incidents to be avoided. Too many tower-mounted monitors and too few controllers result in a low prioritization - i.e. multiple monitors that are easily left unmonitored when it counts.

    First up we need to acknowledge that the bird threat doesn't exist merely in the immediate vicinity of airports... and that birds don't lodge flight-plans.

     An organic bird detection, alerting, avoidance and deterrent device puts the responsibility and timely reactability back in the cockpit where it belongs.

    More importantly, it's there for protection at whatever airport the aircraft operates from.


    Suitable Types of Laser?

    [ ]











    Current Developments

    Research into side effects of weaponized directed energy began in the late 1990s at the Air Force's Brooks City-Base in San Antonio. Xtreme Alternative Defense Systems, is an Anderson, Indiana, company that is developing a rifle-size directed-energy gun for the Marines. It can be calibrated to target the electronics of a vehicle or explosive device, or tuned to temporarily paralyze voluntary muscles, such as those that control arms and legs (or wings). The involuntary muscles, like heart and lungs, operate at a different frequency. The device being developed by HSV Technologies of San Diego will operate similarly, except that the electrical charge will be created by an ultraviolet laser beam, rather than plasma. This device is designed for non-lethal purposes only. At an Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico, researchers working with Raytheon have developed a weapon called the Active Denial System, which repels adversaries by heating the water molecules in their skin with microwave energy. The pain is so great that people flee immediately.

    "It just feels like your skin is on fire," said Rich Garcia, a spokesman for the laboratory who, as a test subject, has felt the Active Denial System's heat. "When you get out of the path of the beam, or shut off the beam, everything goes back to normal. There's no residual pain."

    A Humvee-mounted Active Denial weapon is expected to be given to all services by the end of this year (2004) for evaluation, with a decision about deployment expected by the end of 2005.

    But the idea of using directed energy against humans is creating debate fueled by deaths allegedly caused by Taser stun guns and the record of abuse of Iraqi prisoners -- which put the military's respect for human rights under a microscope.

    Some experts believe the use of directed energy will be limited by international law and treaties.

    2004 link (2 pages)

     Most existing weaponized lasers are gas dynamic lasers. Ultra-violet lasers have been developed by HSV Technologies of San Diego to paralyze animals via an electric charge generated by the laser beam. It generates neuro-electric impulses that control skeletal musculature (aka wings will not flap). It is an ultra-violet laser not an ElectroLaser. Less destructively, microwave active denial systems cause excruciating pain with no lasting effect. But here, for AVIANCOSH, we are obviously talking about thermic lance varieties of weaponized directed energy lasers here - and nothing broad-spectrum (because of the aft-facing duties of the same cupolas - thermal de-icing).

    They can be Microwave, EM Radiation Beam, ElectroLasers or Pulsed Energy Projectiles. Whichever spectrum is used, they admittedly do require high power density but because they are only "set to stun and distract" at short ranges, only for mere fractions of a second. Think of the effect as being an electric shock or an unexpected encounter spasm from static electricity.

    That's where the modern ultra-capacitors and super-conductors come in with their rapid firing cycles courtesy of almost instantaneous discharge/recharge rates. Bird-strike and de-icing tasks are pretty well mutually exclusive and not encountered simultaneously - because they happen in two entirely different types of weather. So there's nil conflict of interest or simultaneous tasking to accommodate. The AVIANCOSH and Laissez-Faire device can conceivably be mounted in the same cupolas and share much commonality as far as its "active"/"offensive" constituent goes.


    Detection and Aiming of AVIANCOSH

     Detection and aiming is achieved using the exact same principle as radar gun-laying. The best example of this, albeit over four decades old now (and overripe for modernisation), is the point-defence system (aka CIWS or Close-in Weapons Systems) such as Raytheon's ubiquitous Phalanx -  The Ku-Band doppler radar-directed guns of Phalanx can engage hordes of incoming rockets and artillery shells. The technology should be able to cope with birds. Later Block 1B Phalanx systems have a complementary FLIR mode for surface (vice merely aerial) engagements. Computer speeds can guarantee hit certainty for head-on engagements of non-evading targets. Alternatively, an adaptation of LIDAR (Laser Radar) could be utilised (link)

    Iridian/Roadshow and DREADLE

    Futuristic Technologies that have come to pass? - but more realistically and in actuality, just developments that have merely "dropped out" of modern technological advances - as AVIANCOSH may (or should) now do.... as a result of progress in development of laser-based "active denial systems".

    The need for Iridian/Roadshow to be more widely adopted has been accentuated in the press by the failure to locate the Air France FLT 447 recorders. DREADLE has surfaced in many different implementations world-wide to economically and effectively address runway incursions by aircraft and vehicles. However the hero focus on Capt Sullenberger has diverted attention away from the serious portents and potentialities of such an event as hitting a flock of large geese. Modern jets vacuum into their intakes a wide swathe of sky. We shouldn't expect the incidence of birdstrikes to diminish because of increased WCO numbers or more regular lawn-mowing on airfields (or prolific Birdars). The risk can be geographically seasonal but it's worldwide and therefore continuous. It desperately needs addressing via a very dynamic initiative such as AVIANCOSH.

    The Incentive to Act?

    "I suspect that most of these positions are motivated more by a desire to see lots more US taxpayer dollars to continue to flow to corporations to pay for R&D that they should be paying for themselves, as well as to Universities to continue their ‘research’ into the issue."  

    For motivation, please focus on all the major airports where an accident soon after take-off, of a fully fueled jet, impacting into the suburbs, would be cataclysmic. If Captain Sullenberger hadn't been on the ball or there hadn't been a Hudson River there, it would have been a horrific downtown catastrophe with great loss of life amongst the high-rises on the ground - as well as total casualties for the aircraft complement. And the hue and cry would have been great. If Pres Obama was to then say anything (and he would), it would be a JFK-like: "just fix this problem. We cannot afford to let this happen again". And there'd be an action time-line attached. At that juncture, R&D costs would be instantly irrelevant. But we really do need to wait for the next major accident and significant body-count before this stage is reached. No cynicism involved. History plainly tells us that. Those companies that have made proven advances in this field (of onboard organic detection, deterrence and avoidance) will get those R&D fundings.

    The Hudson ditching was a heads up to the actual / factual incidence of bird strikes (after an initial NTSB/FAA denial of statistics releases) and now the potential for massive loss of life in the vicinity of the World's major airports has become clearer. Can you imagine an airliner taking off nowadays without TCAS or EGPWS or an operational transponder? The unacknowledged major gap in our aviation safety defences has always been the bird strike threat and it now deserves to be addressed vigorously. Likewise, the panacea solution to anti-ice and on ground de-icing is well overdue. The de-icing and hold-over re-de-icing problem is expensive and a threat to the environment. Add to this a proven inability to cope with all types of FIKI (Flight into Known Icing) conditions (such as SLD) - and you have yet another robust case for considering a wholly new approach. IMHO predictor technologies like Birdar are too oblique and short-sighted to be seen to be addressing the problem "head-on". It's like looking through the wrong end of the binoculars.

    Why use a sun-dial when a chronograph is available?

    Your comments wrt bird radars with TCAS-like precision are on the mark which is why our MERLIN system does not attempt to provide alerts based on single birds but is focused on 'indexing' the airspace with time weighted risk averaging (same
    ORM technology as the proven USAF AHAS).The idea that we will have a bird radar where in the path of the bird is projected and the resultant intersection with an aircraft predicted is not feasible for reasons you have cited (this appears to be the course the FAA is stuck on). MERLIN provides advisories on the level of risk currently present in the airspace and the approximate
    distance and altitude so that pilots can be better aware of the risk and be prepared for strikes. we have a design concept for an
    airborne version also that will index the airspace in front of the aircraft.

    Your AVIANCOSH concept is interesting and I will pass it along to our bird control experts as we are always on the lookout for new technologies that can be integrated into our programs.  Please keep us posted on developments as we often recommend new methods for customers as well as could be interested in the system for our MERLIN detect & deter bird control radar.  One thing to note though is that birds do not always move away from threats and some species will actually respond by 'attacking' the perceived airborne cause of the threat.  When you begin to test the technology, our bird radar would be a good tool to monitor the responses and develop firm data on the system's effectiveness.

    Another thing to note about bird control and birdstrike avoidance (and that we caution our users about) is that there is no 'magic bullet' that will solve the birdstrike problem.  Bird control and birdstrike risk management is hard work and takes a carefully applied combination of techniques from boots on the ground to radar detection and avoidance to habitat management and active and passive deterrence (variety of non-lethal methods as well as on occasion some lethal)  ...  all must be incorporated for an effective program.  Most bird control programs and technologies fail because they rely too heavily on only one or a few techniques/technologies.  We always stress to our customers that our bird radar is another 'tool in the toolbox', and, while we believe it to be a very good one, it does not replace a basic, well rounded bird control program.  What we offer is a system that provides greater and more reliable situational awareness, an objective method to determine risk levels for advisories, and technology that improves bird control program effectiveness and responsiveness.

    I have attached my latest Blog Post on this subject for your review (final version).


    Gary W. Andrews
    General Manager
    DeTect, Inc.
    1902 Wilson Avenue
    Panama City, Florida USA

    T    850.763.7200
    IMHO bird radar is never going to get a tick in the box; reasons being.......
    a. Aircraft to aircraft separation depends upon all participating (and squawking) acft inbound/outbound (or operating locally) being issued tracks, heights, speeds and hard altitudes to be at by specific distances, and on the odd occasion an orbit or diversion from track. Departing aircraft are scheduled to achieve orderly departure slot times - and all this directive info must be acknowledged and acted upon promptly by all parties in order to have orderly flow and an ongoing "avoidance contract". Anybody fails in his duty or misunderstands - and the fall-back is a TCAS RA. That more or less defines a minimum level of separation safety and achieves the regulatory standard. Above all, it's orderly and predictable. Inject a bird radar into that scene and you are calling for a Wild West scenario - if you expect the BIRDAR operator to be able to dictate an additional avoidance task or maintain a separation standard. The best he could ever hope to do would be to issue very short notice random warnings of imminent threat. Unilateral avoidance action by pilots would often breach their contract with ATC - and generate incidents of near collision or at least a loss of separation standards. The range from an airport to which he could do this is very debatable also.
    b. Inject unpredictable flocks of birds into that ATC ballet and it's a whole new ballgame. What does it matter that birds may be flying in a particular direction at an unknown height at 50mph - if suddenly they can unpredictably wheel and turn or circle or be attacked by predators and break up as a flock? They can also be lost from radar due to aspect if they are proceeding individually. They can suddenly meld with permanent radar echoes or be lost due to proceeding tangentially to the radar head - and cancelled by MTI circuitry (moving target indicator). Once you inject the wild card of a wheeling flock (or two) into an orderly ATC situation you cannot start issuing urgent avoidances to aircraft for even minimal miss distances. That way lies bedlam in congested airspace. Compare it to a fleet of heavy bombers mixing it with swarms of predatory fighters. The bombers must maintain formation and tracking - because if they start weaving or mixing it with their aggressors, they will have mutual collisions - as well as collisions with the fighters (i.e. "the birds" in this simile).
    c. Birds on, near or within 30 miles of an airport with dense traffic, constitute misguided missiles. Military radar operators can identify bogeys and their tracking towards an intended target, but anticipating bird-tracks is like trying to channelize quicksilver (i.e. mercury flows). Expecting ATC to inject birds into the avoidance contract would be like trying to choreograph a dogfight. The technology may exist but the operational practicality is practically unachievable. For "control", you first require "controllables".
    d. The very practical solution is AVIANCOSH (attached email). It would be good out to any range from an airport and up to any hazard height. AVIANCOSH would clear birds from the flightpath without aircraft having to take anything much more than minimal avoidance action. The practical effect is both to detect hazards ahead on one's projected flightpath AND quickly taser the birds away from your own forward hemisphere (an automated process that could be tied into the autopilot and/or flight director) - i.e. once zapped the birds always peel off and dive at speed. It's their instinctive response to attackers. AVIANCOSH would not be weather limited and it would also work against all formsof ground-bound wild-life on the runways for take-off and landing..
    e. AVIANCOSH would be an organic detector and deterrent and it featherbeds the process from an ATC point of view. In fact ATC doesn't need to know that you had to dodge a flock while thermic lance zapping the closer interlopers on your way through. The beauty of it all is that it's also an on-ground and airborne icing solution. If you doubt that the technology is there, look at the recent developments in the field and the incredible precision achievable with CNC milling and laser surgery techniques. Will the Birdar protect an unmanoeuvrable aircraft on its take-off roll? No it won't. Could Aviancosh? Yes. The same philosophy applies for the approach and finals, particularly below 1000 feet.
    The only question is who will ultimately put the system together, test, qualify and commission it. 1998's Iridian/Roadshow is now making its way into the airline aviation world. I believe AVIANCOSH will also..... given time. We've seen that flocks of geese can bring down large airliners as well as bizjets. Geese can make it through the windshields of an A380 also. Perhaps in time an accident will dictate that such a system is far too expensive NOT to have. After all, that was eventually the story with take-off warning systems, radar altimeters, weather radar, windshear alerting, TCAS and EGPWS, was it not?
    Aerial Deterrence, a step up from detection (only) ground-based  BIRDARS. Sometimes when talking control, attack can be the premier form of defense.

    See yellow highlights below - something I'd written about previously (as a technology spin-off from advanced anti-icing/de-icing) and reproduced again in May 2007 for Air Safety Week.

    Futuristic and venturesome fancification? Maybe, but so was my Iridian/Roadshow. We'd seen that take off before AF447 - now watch it accelerate into orbit as a necessary solution to AF447's lost recorders.

    Birdstrike Deterrence addresses (would even tend to resolve) the birdstrikes that occur well away from the airport (and its bird radars) during departure and approach..

    Examples of that are the A320 into the Hudson and the 04 Mar 08 Cessna 500 crash in Oklahoma City (link).

    I call it (i.e. aerial deterrence via laser) AvianCosh. Think of it as a bird TASER


    Monday, May 7, 2007

    The FAA On Ice

    Agency Solutions For Shedding Those Excess Pounds

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to amend the airworthiness standards for transport category airplanes certificated for flight in icing conditions. The initiative is intended to improve safety for new designs for operation in icing conditions. The FAA would like to be able to specify an automated IPS (Ice Protection System) that not only warns but acts. The Agency says such systems would remove any question of when pilots are required to activate such measures. By being automated, proactive and pre- emptive, needless accidents could be avoided. It is a laudable exercise that up until now has been stymied by technical limitations and deficient design.

    Comments are due 25 July. The proposed rule (at is based on Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) recommendations to the FAA from the ARAC Ice Protection Harmonization Working Group or IPHWG). ARAC was asked to advise on ice detectors or other acceptable means to warn flightcrews of ice accretion on critical surfaces requiring crew action. Under existing regulations, the certification rules applicable to transport category airplanes for flight in icing conditions require that: "the airplane must be able to operate safely in the continuous maximum and intermittent maximum icing conditions of appendix C. Specifically addressed are operations in icing conditions that might adversely affect safety and installation of certain types of ice protection equipment and wing illumination equipment. Surprisingly, neither the operating regulations nor the certification regulations require a means to warn flightcrews of ice accretion on critical surfaces.

    The benchmark accidents that are often cited as classic examples of icing perils are once again:

    • The Avions de Transport Regional ATR 72 series airplane accident in Roselawn, Indiana on October 31, 1994, where 68 people died. The accident airplane crashed during a rapid descent after an uncommanded roll excursion while operating in icing conditions. The NTSB recommended that the FAA require a means for flightcrews to positively determine when they are in icing conditions that exceed the limits for aircraft certification.
    • The Embraer EMB-120 series airplane accident near Monroe, Michigan, on January 9, 1997, where 29 people died. The accident airplane crashed while operating in icing conditions. The flightcrew may not have activated the airframe ice protection system. The NTSB recommended that the FAA require manufacturers and operators to revise their manuals and training to emphasize that leading edge deicing boots should be activated as soon as the airplane enters icing conditions.


    What the FAA does not address in this NPRM are the aspects covered by the ARAC which are most problematic:

    • Part 121 recommendations to address activation of ice protection systems.
    • Part 121 recommendations to require certain airplanes to exit icing conditions.
    • Part 25 and 33 recommendations to address operations in supercooled large droplet, mixed phase, and glaciated icing conditions.


    According to the NPRM, these issues may be the subject of further rulemaking. The subject of supercooled large droplets (SLD), aka rain-ice or freezing rain, is the most vexing. Rather than broad-brush the whole subject, the NPRM concentrates upon the IPHWG's reviewed icing events and the accidents and incidents where the flightcrew was either completely unaware of ice accretion on the airframe, or was aware of ice accretion, but judged that it was not significant enough to warrant operation of the airframe ice protection system (IPS). The IPHWG concluded (and recommended to the FAA) that flightcrews must be provided with a clear means to know when to activate the IPS.

    The FAA has, for certain airplane types, issued directives as to exactly when pilots should activate anti- and de-ice systems - in particular, deicing boots. The FAA concedes that darkness, high workload and the transparency of clear ice may make it difficult for pilots to determine the need. It also recognizes that the difficulties of observing ice accretions are applicable to any IPS that relies on the flightcrew's observations for activating the system, not just pneumatic deicing boots. The IPHWG concluded that installing a device to alert the flightcrew to activate the IPS would be an improved means to address these situations for future airplanes. A primary ice detection system would be one acceptable means. An advisory ice detection system, in conjunction with substantiated visual cues, would also be an acceptable means.

    The complexity arises when the IPHWG stipulates that the acceptability would be contingent upon:

    • An advisory ice detection system that annunciates when icing conditions exist or when the substantiated visual cues are present.
    • The substantiated visual cues rely on the flightcrew's observation of the first sign of ice accretion on the airplane and do not depend on the pilot determining the thickness of the accretion.
    • The flightcrew activates the ice protection system when they observe the ice accretion or when the ice detector annunciates, whichever occurs first.


    The NPRM concedes that an advisory icing detector isn't reliable enough to be a primary system - but it is seen as a strong supplement to the "proven unreliable" visual detection probabilities. The type of detector being discussed can be seen at The cost of such an ice detector system would be around $6,000 per ice detector for a production airplane.

    Another acceptable alternative to requiring an ice detector would be to require operating the IPS whenever the airplane is operating in conditions conducive to airframe icing. In this case, the flightcrew would activate the IPS in response to a specific air temperature threshold and the presence of visible moisture. Whichever method is employed, the FAA is now adamant that the proposed US dollars 25.1419(e) will require one of the three acceptable methods recommended by the ARAC Ice Protection Harmonization Working Group: a primary ice detector, visual cues and an advisory ice detector, or operation based on a trigger temperature plus visible moisture.

    The FAA is concerned with the flightcrew workload created if an IPS must be manually cycled. Manual operation of the IPS could be a distraction during the approach and landing phases of flight which typically involve higher pilot workloads. The emphasis is therefore on having an IPS that is automatically cycled or operates on a continuous basis (for example, an anti-icing system). The proposed rule looks to eliminate workload concerns by stipulating either an IPS that works continuously or in a cyclic manner or an advisory system that would alert the pilots to activate the IPS. The rule would be applicable to all newly certificated part 25 airplanes.

    Thermal laser wiping: The theory is that a twin laser unit sits atop the cockpit of a high-wing turboprop (and another under the nose of a low-wing turboprop) in an ice- guarded rear-facing cupola. It is memory-mapped with the airplane's anatomic profile.

    The low-power laser continuously measures (via a mensuration mapping software program) the aircraft's profile, until it detects an anomaly associated with ice accretion. With the high-power laser armed by the ice-detector, it then commences thermal lasering of the aircraft's leading edges, engine intakes, propellers, pitots and forward wing sections. The cupola mounted above the flight deck also would handle the empennage.

    Such a system might weigh less than the unaerodynamic boots. Electric power demand might not be that great, as heavy-duty capacitors could be charged up over a period of time and then discharged for the periodic phased attacks on ice. As per the standard inflation cycle for de-icer boots, the lasers could alternate phase (top cupola/bottom cupola) and run a 30 seconds on/30 seconds off cycle.

    Maybe this system could be called the Laissez-faire, a play on the word laser which might appeal to the French manufacturer of the ATR-72 (Laissez-faire = Non- interference in the affairs of others, as in 'ice go away').

    ASW 10 Nov 2003


    At this point it's worth reviewing what Air Safety Week has said in the past about exploitation of new technology to drag deicing, anti-icing and preflight ground de-icing into the 21st century. Deicing boots and piped hot bleed air may have served their purpose but other solutions should be sought. ASW has previously "shed some light" on this:

    Thermal laser wiping: The theory is that a twin laser unit sits atop the cockpit of a high-wing turboprop (and another under the nose of a low-wing turboprop) in an ice-guarded rear-facing cupola. It is memory-mapped with the airplane's anatomic profile.

    The low-power laser continuously measures (via a mensuration mapping software program) the aircraft's profile, until it detects an anomaly associated with ice accretion. With the high-power laser armed by the ice-detector, it then commences thermal lasering of the aircraft's leading edges, engine intakes, propellers, pitots and forward wing sections. The cupola mounted above the flight deck would also handle the empennage. Such a system might weigh less than the unaerodynamic boots. Electric power demand might not be that great, as heavy-duty capacitors could be charged up over a period of time and then discharged for the periodic phased attacks on ice accretions. As per the standard inflation cycle for de-icer boots, the lasers could alternate phase (top cupola/bottom cupola) and run a 30 seconds on/30 seconds off cycle.

    Perhaps this system could be called the Laissez-faire, a play on the word laser which might appeal to the French manufacturer of the ATR-72 (Laissez-faire = Non-interference in the affairs of others, as in 'ice go away'). (Air Safety Week 10 Nov 03 & 21 Nov 05)

    • ASW 10 Jan 2005 gave a further plug for the thermal de-icing with lasers concept (this time in a supplementary ground deicing context):


    When one:

    • Considers the cost of de-icing with fluids (on top of which one can stack all the environmental concerns for getting rid of "spent" de-icing fluid and the fumes in the cockpit plus APU problems resulting from de-icing fluid getting where it's not supposed to go), and
    • Hears about pilots taking a chance by not deicing, and
    • Looks at the new hold-over rules (for starting the deicing fluid spray process all over again), plus
    • Recalls all the accidents caused by a failure to de-ice, and
    • Notes all the ground accidents caused by de-icing rigs striking aircraft, then ...
    • Thermal laser de-icing on the ground (and thermal laser anti-icing airborne) might prove to be a real blessing and a big boon to safety.


    In a further development of this concept, it was also postulated that, in conjunction with a close-in detection mode of airborne weather radar (or a detection mode of the mapping laser), the (now) forward facing cupola could be used as a laser weapon against birds in the flight-path with collision potential. Once "zapped" by the laser sufficiently far ahead, they'd peel off and dive clear (the usual behavior observed with birds just pre-strike)... or so the theory goes.


    The FAA's NPRM seems to be a reasonable attempt to "break the ice" on a subject that's far more complex than this NPRM's coverage. However if the only outcome was to be that icing detectors would become mandatory in new designs, then that would eliminate a large pie-slice of the existing icing accident potential. The new focus should now be on coping with SLD and investigating new anti-icing technologies. The ultimate solution to the icing curse has been an ongoing enigma for aviation. The company that comes up with a workable futuristic system will be both feted and bonanza'd.

    ASW  Monday, May 7, 2007