EasyJet and partners Airbus and Nicarnica Aviation have completed the final stage of testing for the AVOID volcanic ash sensor through an experiment that involved creating an artificial ash cloud.
An A400M Airbus test plane dispersed one tonne of Icelandic ash into the atmosphere at between 9,000ft and 11,000ft, replicating the conditions experienced in 2010 when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted.
The 2010 eruption grounded numerous flights at an estimated cost of between €1.5bn and €2.5bn to the European economy.
A second Airbus A340-300 test aircraft fitted with AVOID (Airborne Volcanic Object Imaging Detector) flew towards the ash cloud, identifying and measuring it from around 60km away.
The experiment also used a Diamond DA42 from Duesseldorf University of Applied Sciences to fly into the ash cloud to take measurements, thereby corroborating the measurements made by the infrared AVOID system.
The AVOID volcanic sensor detected the ash cloud and measured its density which ranged from 0.1 to 1 g m-2 – or concentrations of 100 to 1000 μg m-3. This, say Airbus, is within the range of concentrations measured during the Eyjafjallajokul ash crisis in April and May 2010.