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  • Michigan Aerospace Nabs NASA Contract
Jul 2013
ANN ARBOR, Mich., July 26, 2013 — Optical products and engineering company Michigan Aerospace Corp. (MAC) has received a NASA contract to develop its aircraft-based optical air data system for airborne volcanic ash detection. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Volcanic ash is a significant hazard to aircraft engines, windscreens and electronics, causing damage to unwary aircraft and disrupting air travel. In 2010, Iceland’s volcano Eyjafjallajökull disrupted air travel over Europe for several weeks; this month, Mexico’s volcano Popocatépetl disrupted flights to and from Mexico City.

As part of the Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award, titled “Volcanic Ash Detection Using Raman Lidar: Vader,” MAC will collaborate with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to build upon its optical air data systems — which use UV laser light to measure air speed, direction, temperature and density — to measure airborne volcanic ash loading from behind a flush-mounted window.

“We are developing a fully integrated atmospheric intelligence package for flight safety,” said CEO Peter Tchoryk. “With this funding, we are getting closer to achieving a compact, multifunction optical solution that is applicable to manned and unmanned aircraft.”

Vader can continuously monitor ash conditions in front of commercial and military aircraft, providing a warning of dangerous conditions in time for crews to alter course. Compact versions of Vader can be mounted aboard unmanned air vehicles, which scout airways during major eruptions to determine when conditions are safe for flight.

The technology also could be used to study volcanic ash plumes and to characterize large atmospheric instabilities such as storms and hurricanes.

The project will be led by Dr. Dominique Fourguette, vice president of R&D.

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