ULTRASONIC technology which automatically warns pilots of ice build-up on aircraft may soon be approved for general use by carriers.

Developed by Rosemount Aerospace, the HALO ground ice-detection system is designed to sense ice on aircraft wings before take-off. Key components include two ultrasonic sensors installed on each wing, a processor unit and a cockpit warning display.

Sensor signals are automatically and continuously monitored by the processor, which analyses the data and determines whether the wings are contaminated.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that the device could increase flying safety while eliminating unnecessary use of toxic de-icing fluids.

In late 1996, Northwest Airlines and Rosemount Aerospace, a unit of BFGoodrich Aerospace, tested the ice detector on two McDonnell Douglas (MDC) MD-82 passenger aircraft. According to the FAA, the evaluation showed that the HALO ultrasonic technology is able to detect ice build-up. The manufacturer and the FAA are moving to certificate the safety device for widespread use.

Rosemount, MDC and Northwest, along with consulting company FBS, developed the safety device as part of the US Department of Defense's technology re-investment programme, which is designed to come up with "dual-use" technologies.

The FAA provided technical expertise to the researchers.

Source: Flight International