Norwegian ash camera in new passenger planes

The ash cloud resulting from the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland is estimated to have cost Europe NOK 50 billion. When at some point in the future her big sister Katla volcano erupts, airlines may be much better prepared. In summer 2012, the fourth-largest airline in the world – easyJet – will begin using a new Norwegian gadget.

After 10 days of successful flight tests around Mount Etna and Stromboli volcano in Italy, Senior Scientist Fred Prata at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) presented the new volcanic ash camera – named AVOID – to the European media.

Norwegian ash camera in new passenger planes
AVOID can detect volcanic ash particles in the airspace up to 100 km ahead of the aircraft, giving pilots five to 10 minutes to steer away from an ash cloud. The camera is just as effective at night as during the day.

In just a few years the device may be standard equipment on all new passenger aircraft. It is already being installed next year on 20 new Airbus A320 jetliners on order from the UK airline easyJet.

Norwegian product with global potential Five years ago, when Australian Fred Prata’s idea of developing a volcanic ash camera was received with little interest in his home country, the researcher brought his idea to Norway and NILU.

“Here I found an advanced research environment which has been a terrific help to my efforts to develop and realise my concept,” says Dr Prata.

“UK easyJet is a major player and an important customer that is willing to be the first to use the camera, in cooperation with Airbus. The airline is eager to try AVOID because the UK is very vulnerable to ash clouds from volcanic eruptions in Iceland.”

“The Norwegian volcanic ash camera functions perfectly for us. When Katla volcano does blow, the conditions will be ten times worse than what we saw in 2010. But our planes will still be in the air,” says Ian Davies, Head of Engineering and Maintenance at easyJet.

Image Credit: Senior Scientist Fred Prata at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research and the new volcanic ash camera AVOID. (Photo: Bård Amundsen)