While most of us have experienced a bit of turbulence on a flight, few of us would have been seriously affected. But, while rare, turbulence can be dangerous, causing passengers to be injured. It’s also a bit of a scary situation to be in, particularly if you have a fear of flying.
A new, revolutionary trial by Boeing hopes to put an end to turbulent flights by using laser technology to spot more severe incidences of turbulence before it happens.
According to technology website Wired, a “long-range lidar” (a type of surveying laser) will be installed on the nose of planes to spot clear-air turbulence more than 60 seconds ahead of the plane.
Boeing program’s lead investigator Stefan Bieniawski told the website this would give crew enough time to secure the cabin and minimise the risk of injury to passengers.
The lidar works by projecting a laser in a clear path ahead of the plane while a sensor tracks the particles along the beam. If there are significant changes in the velocity of the particles in the laser’s path and those around it, this is an indicator that turbulence is up ahead.
While 60 seconds' notice may not seem like much, it’s actually a significant improvement from the current standards of recognising turbulence, which relies on reports from aircrafts that have flown through the path previously as well as bad weather evasion.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency has collaborated with Boeing on the project, the trial of which is set to take place early next year at Boeing’s airfield near Seattle.
Laser technology to detect turbulence isn’t the only scientific improvements to aircrafts as of late.
Touchscreen controls have been given the green light by new European researchers who have found they offer some of the most promising safety enhancements for future aircraft.
According to The Australian, historically touchscreens were seen as unreliable in severe turbulence. However, researchers say without new advances, cabin crew will not be able to manage the information that today’s technical jetliners spew out. Touchscreens were seen as an ideal solution for disseminating the new information.
Pilots from more than 60 carriers participated in extensive studies conducted by the Netherlands Aerospace Centre where they were subjected to emergencies and unexpected changes in the flight path. Senior Dutch researcher Wilfred Rouwhorst found that pilots were able to keep the situation under control with minimal interaction with the touchscreens.
With lasers and touchscreens coming to cockpits near you – the future is truly now. Plus, it means safer flights for everyone.
This article originally appeared on Starts at 60.