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Volcanic Ash Cloud detectors

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A new volcanic ash cloud detector has been created to prevent chaos if an ash cloud erupts again.

In 2010 airports around the world come to a standstill as the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland caused global problems.

Ten million travellers faced delays and cancelled flights because of the ash being harmful to the plane’s engines.

Short and long haul flights leaving the UK were cancelled leaving many passengers stranded on holiday or some having their holidays cancelled if they hadn’t already travelled.

To make sure airports are not in the same situation again a new ash detector called AVOID - The Airborne Volcanic Object Imaging Detector has been developed.

The device can detect ash cloud which will prevent any future disruption caused by erupting volcanoes, it has two infrared cameras attached to the aircraft wings and at 30,000 feet it can see levels of silicates more than 60 miles ahead.

If high levels of ash get into an aircrafts engines it can cause them to melt and potentially fail putting passengers’ lives at risk.

Easyjet have tested the system successfully on a light aircraft flying close to Mount Etna in Scilly, they plan to add the camera to a commercial flight next year.

The system has been developed in response to the two Icelandic disruptions in the past two years; if the detector is successful it could be the answer to ash cloud problems.

Easyjet’s Head of Engineering Ian Davies told Sky News: "Airspace would probably have been open for the vast majority of time, in other words we closed lots of airspace that we would not have had to, if we'd had this technology.

"This instrument put on board an aircraft acts as a tactical device so it's able to give the pilot information about exactly what is ahead of him.

"So he will have strategic information to know that there is an ash cloud about somewhere; but he is now able to take off, fly safely, see the ash cloud, and if it happens to be in a place where it's not supposed to be, then he can just make a small manoeuvre and go round it safely."

It is proposed that the more aircrafts that carry the detectors the more planes can be aware of ash clouds meaning plans can be made and will also indicate where it is safe to fly.

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By Amanda Bainbridge