NASA Develops Microphone That Can Detect ‘clear Air Turbulence’ On Aircraft
NASA’s microphone could detect atmospheric turbulence more than 300 miles away from Pennsylvania skies when kept in equidistant triangular pattern.
Scientists at NASA have designed a microphone to detect the clear air turbulence that causes tremors in an aircraft whilst on a flight. According to NASA, the invisible “horizontal tornadoes” not only make the air travel for the passengers uncomfortable but are also hazardous and susceptible to an accident. “The attempts to avoid them can consume large amounts of fuel,” the space administration said in a release. Further, it revealed, that researchers have finally been able to develop a technology that can detect these zones, and with some engineering ingenuity, they could revolutionize both flight planning and aeronautical research.
“Everything in the atmosphere can make a sound. Volcanoes rumble, waterfalls crash, and air rushes, but there’s more to that sound than what our ears perceive,” NASA explained. It added that similar to the frequencies that cannot be heard in the infrared light, the atmosphere turbulence has an audio analog called infrasound that cannot be heard to the ear but can be detected via technology.
“There are no visible clouds or atmospheric features to warn of such disruption,” NASA said, adding that even as the clear air turbulence cannot be heard, it carries a definite infrasound signature. NASA’s researchers Qamar Shams and Allan Zuckerwar at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, suggested that if the aircraft pilots or the air traffic controllers could listen to the clear air turbulence beforehand, they could plan an alternative route.
In an experiment that started in 2007, scientists modified a microphone that could detect the low frequencies in high fidelity to be able to capture the clear air turbulence. Shams and Zuckerwar replaced a normal microphone’s moving diaphragm that swells while picking audio waves with low-tension diaphragm made of a wide radius paired with a large, sealed air chamber behind it. This structure would allow the microphone to hear ultra-low sound waves from far away distances.
Developing HiDRON glider
Manufactured by PCB Piezotronics of Depew, New York, in collaboration with Langley. W, the microphone was positioned on the ground of langley’s runway in equidistant triangular pattern. It was found that they were effectively catching the atmospheric turbulence more than 300 miles away from Pennsylvania skies. Later, the scientists participated in the Space Race Challenge led by the Center for Advancing Innovation in cooperation with NASA for their advancement in startosdynamics and won first prize under the category unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) control system.
Later, NASA patented the technology which had the potential of being an in-flight turbulence detection sensor, and the company began the manufacture of the stratospheric glider known as the HiDRON, designed by their Canadian affiliate, Stratodynamics Aviation Inc. With the help of infrasound microphone and wind probe, the HiDRON glider was capable of using algorithms to detect turbulence from more than 100, 000 feet. “Stratodynamics Aviation is now working on a new version of the glider in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Waterloo in Ontario,” NASA informed.