Michigan Aerospace Corporation (MAC) has begun work on a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with NASA’s Langley Research Center. The contract, “RIDES: Raman Icing Detection System,” extends MAC’s present aircraft-based optical airdata system technology — which uses ultraviolet laser light to measure air speed, direction, temperature, and density — to also detect conditions aloft when ice is likely to form, enabling a multi-hazard sensing capability.
“Icing,” or ice formation on the wings and other critical parts of an airplane in flight, is a critical safety issue. Also, ice formation on pitot tubes and ports — the traditional way of gathering air data — can cause loss of speed information to the pilots and consequent accidents. RIDES will provide an all-optical ability to detect icing conditions, allowing pilots to make real-time decisions about flight path and activation of in-flight deicing systems, while at the same time, providing a vital air-data system for the aircraft. All capabilities will be accomplished through a common flush-mounted window that does not protrude into the airflow, and can be easily heated to prevent ice buildup.
RIDES has the potential to be combined with MAC’s other UV-based optical air-data system, turbulence detection, and volcanic particle detection technologies. The combined technology would also report airspeed along with air, temperature, and density routinely, providing commercial aircraft with a valuable, multi-function optical warning/air data system.