Jul 6, 2017: UTC Aerospace Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp., has entered into a memorandum of agreement with Ophir Corporation to develop and commercialise Ophir's laser air data system. The companies will partner in technology and product development for entry into commercial service in as few as five years.
Unlike present pitot probe air data sensors, which monitor air pneumatically using pressurised air or gas, this new system will use Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) sensing techniques to measure various air data parameters. Laser air data systems are not vulnerable to icing and aerodynamic drag, and as a result they free up power to be used elsewhere on the aircraft. Laser air data systems will operate consistently in virtually all environments and operate down to zero velocity and at all angles of attack and sideslip, thus expanding information available to the flight control system. One day, experts expect laser air data systems may even be able to look ahead of the aircraft to better navigate turbulence, thus improving passenger safety and comfort.
The laser air data system technology developed by Ophir is exclusive in that it is capable of measuring the full range of air data parameters (temperature, velocity, angle of attack, angle of side slip and altitude) in a manner that is fully dissimilar to traditional air data systems. The companies foresee that laser air data systems will be used in concert with UTC Aerospace Systems' field-proven air data sensors as part of a more intelligent air data architecture, complementing and reinforcing an aircraft's overall air data collection ability and thus improving flight safety, aircraft efficiency and autonomous control.
Ophir has flight-tested prototypes and has demonstrated the performance potential of the technology. UTC Aerospace Systems and Ophir are partnering in the design of a new prototype to enhance performance, robustness and packaging for future flight-testing with customers.
"Ophir Corporation has been developing, manufacturing and servicing laser radar avionics systems for over thirty years. We are excited to use this heritage experience to collaborate with UTC Aerospace Systems for the commercialization of our laser air data sensor. We believe that this sensor potentially increases aviation flight safety, measurement availability and reliability by providing a redundant air data measurement in all weather conditions," said Ophir President Martin O'Brien.
"UTC Aerospace Systems has been at the forefront of air data technology since it was first introduced at the outset of the Jet Age, and we're proud to continue that tradition by collaborating with Ophir on laser air data sensors, which we believe represent the next frontier in air data collection," said Sensors & Integrated Systems President Justin Keppy. "By helping aircraft measure data more effectively under more conditions, laser air data sensors will allow pilots to make more informed in-flight decisions, thus enhancing flight safety and efficiency."