Sat, Jan 08, 2005
Air Force scientists working on laser light as signaling
Air Force Research
Laboratory scientists have launched a study which supports the
development of a new flight-warning system designed to
significantly enhance pilot safety.
Incidents of general aviation pilots violating controlled
airspace led to the study, which focuses on safely using laser
light for a new aviation signaling system.
"It became obvious to air traffic controllers that a secondary
warning system beyond radio communications is needed to let pilots
know to change course," said Maj. (Dr.) Laura Barnes, principal
investigator for the optical radiation branch in the
laboratory’s human effectiveness directorate.
The potential for navigational confusion near critical
infrastructures prompted the aviation community to find an
effective secondary signal warning system, Major Barnes said. This
proposed system would be a better alternative to today's broadband
light sources, such as ground-based warning lights, that cannot be
effective across long distances.
The study, being conducted in phases, began with a preliminary
investigation using experienced pilots. Ten pilots observed a
series of laser signals, varying in intensity, during simulated day
and night flight scenarios.
"We're fine-tuning the system to ensure that cognitive
interpretation (of the laser signals) is satisfactory," Major
Barnes said. Specifically, the proposed signaling system must not
be confused with the many distracting light sources typically
encountered over urban areas and must not hamper navigation.
(Our thanks to Rudy Purificato of the 311th Human Systems
Wing Public Affairs)
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