Will Ash-Detection Systems Work on Airplanes?

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The low-budget British airline Easyjet has never been afraid to trial the odd thing here and there, but usually it’s amusing ad campaigns. Now they’ve taken it up a notch.

It’s unveiled a system that it believes will allow airlines to safely negotiate those ash clouds, which have been responsible for causing havoc in the skies this year. The infra-red technology will let pilots see the incoming danger up to 62 miles away, which should mean the pilot can change course and get to the destination. Easyjet chief executive Andy Harrison said, “This pioneering technology is the silver bullet that will make large-scale ash disruption history.”

Snappily called Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector (Avoid), it will be tested by Airbus on behalf of Easyjet within the next two months. The airline is spending the best part of $1.5m on the system — look for their famous low-cost fares to rise! — and doesn’t mind if rivals want to share its knowledge.

And it even has the crucial backing of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who decides whether it’s safe to fly through ash in British airspace. But Harrison did admit that it would be harder to get approval (liftoff, if you will) from the European authorities.