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Mountain Flights to Become Safer
August 30, 2006 13:00

Russian scientists have patented a system, which helps to avoid collisions of planes and helicopters with mountain slopes. More information about this innovation can be found in the Advanced Research section of the Intentional Science and Technology Centre website.

All pilots know pretty well – to fly either on a plane, or on a helicopter in mountainous areas is a difficult and a dangerous task, even when the weather is fine and visibility is good, not to mention adverse weather conditions and low visibility. When a plane suddenly appears dangerously close to the mountain slope, merely a second is left for making a decision and carrying it out – the speed of getting close to the wall is very high, and planes often lack time to change the course and to escape the wall safely.

We all know about the radiolocators and various terrestrial services – why do planes and helicopters still keep crashing, especially during landing and taking off the mountainous airdromes? There are several reasons. The first one is the drawbacks of existing systems of air traffic control: they often fail to monitor low-level flights in areas hard-to-reach for observation, i.e. on tracks, laying beyond the radar field. Moreover, the failures are sometimes detected on the borders of interacting systems. This fact, especially under conditions of rapidly growing intensity of the air traffic, leads to constant increase of near collisions of planes and helicopters with mountain slopes, even under good visibility conditions.

 This situation obviously shows that human beings – pilots and air traffic controllers – desperately need help from the machines. Some devices should exist, which under any weather conditions, would have detected approaching mountain well in advance and either informed a pilot about it, or gave an appropriate command to an automatic pilot system. Unfortunately, neither large corporations, nor individuals have succeeded in developing such devices. But the breakthrough can be seen. Scientists from Samara State Technical University together with fellows from “Ekran” science and research institute have suggested their own solution for the problem described. The engineers have already patented the system for preventing accidental collisions of planes and helicopters in mountainous areas and are now testing it.

The main idea of the technology is that scientists have overcome the so-called “paradox of the mountainous area” – the fact that Doppler drift of sum frequency (correlation between radio signal frequency and its source’s velocity) on radiolocator’s output remains the same during flight over both level and mountainous areas. Leaving beside technical and theoretical details of such paradox, we should mention that Samara scientists have found the means to overcome described paradox and succeeded in using two methods (pulse and Doppler) of detecting space and time parameters of an aircraft in one device. Moreover, a specially designed computing machine with exclusive software allows analyzing said data, finding a mountain slope on the course, estimating the slope gradient and the distance to it. In other words, the device provides very high probability of recognizing the natural obstacle and immediate warning the pilot about it or changing the course.

The joint team of scientists has already fulfilled a similar project – they have developed the system for preventing collisions of cars, moving in a column, under low visibility and even at night with blackout. Another development was a car radiolocator, which informed a driver about critical distance to the next car moving forward – the device considered absolute moving velocity, approach velocity and road surface conditions. Of course, there are some other range of velocities in case of planes, but the key aspects remain the same. Now the scientists, having all necessary technical and theoretical background, are seeking for funding.


Anna Kizilova


Tags: Russian technologies     

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