Supersonic aircraft generate shock waves that move outward and extend to the ground. As a cone of pressurized air spreads across the landscape along the flight path, it creates a continuous sonic boom along the flight track. Several factors can influence sonic booms: weight, size, and shape of the aircraft; its altitude and flight path; and weather and atmospheric conditions. This technology allows pilots to control the impact of sonic booms.

A software system displays the location and intensity of shock waves caused by supersonic aircraft. This technology can be integrated into cockpits or flight control rooms to help pilots minimize sonic boom impact in populated areas. The system processes vehicle and flight parameters as well as data regarding current atmospheric conditions. The display provides real-time information regarding sonic boom location and intensity, enabling pilots to make the necessary flight adjustments to control the timing and location of sonic booms. This technology can be used on current-generation supersonic aircraft, which generate loud sonic booms, as well as future-generation, low-boom aircraft, anticipated to be quiet enough for populated areas.

When fully deployed in real time, the display will leverage existing tools developed and enhanced by the U.S. Air Force and NASA to predict sonic boom parameters. The prediction data will be integrated with a real-time, local-area, moving-map display that is capable of displaying the aircraft’s current sonic boom footprint at all times. The pilot will be able to choose from a menu of pre-programmed maneuvers such as accelerations, turns, or pushovers, and the predicted sonic boom footprint for that maneuver appears on the map. After fully developed and implemented, this will allow the pilot to select or modify parameters to either avoid generating a sonic boom or to place the sonic boom in a specific location. The system may also provide pilots with guidance on how to execute the chosen maneuver.

This technology will enable supersonic commercial flight without disturbing population centers on the ground.

This work was done by Ed Haering of Dryden Flight Research Center and Ken Plotkin of Wyle. DRC-008-001

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the March, 2013 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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