Hijackproof airliners and UAVs in civil airspace – ICAS 2010 Day 4

Added on 24 September 2010 by Bill Read

Flying damaged aircraft safely, remote control of hijacked aircraft and explosion-proof luggage containers. Bill Read reports on some of the safety and security topics covered on the fourth day of the ICAS conference in Nice

Keeping aircraft flying and being able to land safely in the event of an accidental or malicious incident is a key concern in the airline industry. The subjects of safety and security were both covered in several presentations during this week’s ICAS conference in Nice.

The French aerospace research facility ONERA and the German DLR aerospace centre are working on a project called IMMUNE (Intelligent Monitoring and Managing of Unexpected Events). The aim of the project is to investigate the feasibility of installing systems into an aircraft which could detect unexpected events (such as damage to an aircraft structure during flight) and then adjust the aircraft’s flight control systems so that the pilot could continue flying. Two particular areas that IMMUNE is looking at are damage to primary flight control surfaces and the adverse effect of aircraft icing.

A €50m European Defence Agency project, MIDCAS, which will run from 2009-2013, has the aim of reducing the risk of mid-air collisions between UAVs and other aircraft. Still in its early stages, MIDCAS is currently testing sensors and setting up standards for ‘See and Avoid’ (S&A) events which will be followed by computer simulations and an S&A demonstrator, with Alenia’s Sky-Y UAV penciled in as a demonstrator.

A joint Dutch-German project between AT-One/DLR is studying the problem of how national authorities could respond to the problem of hijacked passenger aircraft being used as weapons to destroy people and buildings and how to avoid having to resort to the ultimate deterrent of shooting them down. The solution that they have come up with is to fit short range remote control flight control systems into the aircraft which can be used to ‘passivate’ the aircraft. The idea is that a fighter aircraft will fly close to the hijacked aircraft which can use short range datalinks to allow ATC to take control of the aircraft from the hijacker and land it safety. The systems are deliberately short range to avoid the risk of misuse.

Another presentation from Italian company Appolonia looked into the design of a new flexible cargo container for narrow-body aircraft which could contain the blast from an explosive device in the luggage hold. Unfortunately, there were no pictures available of how the container might look, as it is currently still under development.

And finally

Few readers will readily forget the transport chaos that occured across Europe in April folowing the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. A double session at ICAS was devoted to the flights conducted by the German DLR research aircraft during that period which flew all across Europe to monitor the extent of the ash cloud and even over the volcano itself. For those interested in learning more about the background to the event the RAes will be holding a special one-day conference at 4 Hamilton Place on Volcanic Ash and Aviation on 9 November.

from the Royal Aeronautical Society

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