Germany: The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) has developed an instrument based on the Light Detection and Ranging technology (LiDAR) to help pilots detect dangerous turbulence. The device that can be mounted on aircraft emits short-wave ultraviolet laser pulses along the direction of the flight. Being reflected by the air molecules, the signal’s back-scatter shows fluctuations in the density of the atmosphere. The pilots can thus see in real time whether there is any clear-air turbulence (CAT) in the region they are about to enter. CAT appears independently of cloud cover and has so far been impossible to predict. Despite usually not putting the safety of the flight at risk, the turbulence might be a highly unpleasant and scary experience for the passengers, sometimes even resulting in injury. Several recent studies have shown that incidence and severity of turbulences is rising due to climate change.
The development of a turbulence-predicting tool has therefore become a priority of the atmospheric research community. A team from DLR’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics has managed to develop a prototype tool in the framework of the Demonstration of LIDAR based Clear Air Turbulence detection project (DELICAT).