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article imageUK to deploy volcanic ash detector network around the country

By Karen Graham     Jul 12, 2015 in Technology
London - A network of ash detectors is being installed across the United Kingdom which will help prevent volcanic ash clouds from shutting down European airline service.
The Met Office is responsible for the technology used in forecasting weather, as well as assisting in flight controls. They are installing 10 Light Detection and Ranging Systems, or LIDARs. The system will warn of volcanic eruptions and be invaluable in increasing passenger safety and avoiding flight disruptions.
The LIDARs are part of a £3 million project funded by the Department for Transport (DfT). Once volcanic ash is detected by the sensors, the data will be sent to the UK's Volcanic Ash Advisory Center. There, the information will be collated along with information from satellites to give a real-time picture of ash formation in UK and European skies.
The LIDAR system probes the atmosphere using light from a pulsed laser source. Suspended particles give off a backspatter light that is collected using a telescope as a receiver, and the information is then analysed. The resulting information will provide a vertical distribution profile, along with showing the makeup of the particles.
The Economic Times quoted Jonathan Nicholson of the Civil Aviation Authority as saying, "We've got three bands of ash - low, medium and high, which is defined by the amount of ash in the air - that defines where airlines can fly" Knowing where the ash cloud is, and its density will aid in determining safe flight paths.
Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill told the BBC: "This new equipment will allow the UK's Met Office to track ash clouds more easily and predict how they might spread more accurately.That could play a big part in minimizing disruption to flights during any future incident."
Goodwill added, "If the airline has arranged with us that they can fly in the low and medium bands, then they're free to make their own choices. So we should see much less disruption with the same amount of ash as we saw during the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud."
In April 2010, an ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull resulted in thousands of flights being cancelled across Europe for a period of six days. The closing of airspace ended up costing airlines more than one billion pounds. Iceland's active volcanoes continue to present a risk to air travel, but with improved detection, better forecasting capabilities and more flexible safety regulations, disruptions in future air travel should be minimized.
More about United Kingdom, lidar, Volcanic ash, three levels of density, Airline safety
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