Easyjet today announced it is in the final stages of testing the AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector) system.
The carrier first unveiled plans for the ash cloud radar technology, which uses infrared fitted to aircraft to supply images to pilots and airline flight control centres, in 2010 and has been working on it ever since (see online news, December 2011).
The images will enable pilots to see an ash cloud up to 100km ahead, at altitudes of between 5,000 and 50,000 feet, allowing them to make adjustments to the flight path.
Now Easyjet and its partners Airbus and Nicarnica plan to stage a final test in August.
A tonne of ash, which has been specially dried to the consistency of dried talc, collected by the Institute of Earth Sciences in Reykjavik has been flown from Iceland to England for the experiment.
One of two Airbus test planes will then disperse the ash creating an artificial ash cloud for the other Airbus, using the AVOID technology, to detect and alter its course.
The experiment, which should take place in August, will happen when the Seviri and Calypso satellites are aligned to be able to image the ash cloud from space, allowing the AVOID system to work to the best of its ability.
The technology will also allow an image of the volcanic ash cloud to be built up on the ground, enabling authorities to open up large areas of airspace that would otherwise be closed during the eruption.
For more information visit easyjet.com.
Report by Graham Smith