A Technology Partnership for the New Millennium

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1.2 Turbulence Detection and Mitigation Research

Atmospheric turbulence is the leading cause of in-flight injuries to passengers and flight crews. FAA statistics show that 98 percent of those injuries happen because people aren't wearing seat belts. An alert of impending rough air would give pilots time to warn passengers and flight attendants to buckle up and take steps to reduce turbulence effects. Not only is turbulence hazardous: it also costs the airlines time, in the form of re-routing and late arrivals, and money, an estimated $100 million a year.

Turbulence is often associated with visible storm systems. Aircraft can use available radar systems to detect and avoid that particular form of rough air. But currently there are no effective systems to warn flight crews of clear air turbulence, which generally occurs at cruising altitudes.

Detecting nonvisible turbulence with a laser light beam provides pilots valuable seconds for warning

Detecting nonvisible turbulence with a laser light beam will provide pilots valuable seconds for warning crew and passengers and taking safety precautions.
A NASA-industry team has already flight tested a sophisticated laser device which was able to sense previously undetectable clear air turbulence. The Airborne Coherent Lidar for Advanced In-flight Measurement (ACLAIM) project came out of technology developed for a high speed civil transport.

Work is also underway to better understand and predict clear air turbulence and develop reliable and effective detection and mitigation concepts. This goal requires:

  • Development of highly reliable detection technology to sense dangerous turbulence with sufficient warning to institute defensive maneuvers
  • Improved resolution of forecasts to provide advance prediction of turbulence, which would reduce the frequency of encounters
  • Development of rough air encounters technology, which would reduce or alleviate dangerous turbulence effects

Rod Bogue

Dr. Renato O. Colantonio
216-433- 6370

Frank Jones


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