Combined LIDAR and GPS System Improves Air Safety
Erin Green posted on October 30, 2015 |

Modern aircraft have the technology to avoid crashing into one another in the sky, but what happens when they’re back on the ground?

Traffic collision avoidance systems (TCAS) were developed to handle the majority of aircraft collisions, which generally happen during the cruise phase of flight. These systems operate by using transponders to ping other aircraft repeatedly and create a trackable trend of the aircraft’s flight.

However, these systems can result in cluttered data when transponders are concentrated on the ground in airports. This can leave aircraft on the runway open to a collision.

Improving Collision Avoidance

The recently patented Aerial, Landing and Takeoff Aircraft Crash Avoidance System (ALTACAS) offers an update to current TCAS systems. It is designed to detect and monitor other aircraft, drones and vehicles at or near ground level in airports.

What makes this system different is that unlike the existing TCAS system, ALTACAS does not use transponders.

Check out how the ALTACAS system works:

(Video courtesy of ALTACAS Technology.)

The video highlights the combination of light detection and ranging (LIDAR) radar technology and GPS tracking used in the ALTACAS. Neither technology interferes with radio signals from air traffic controllers.

Avoiding Runway Collisions

By mounting multidirectional LIDAR housings on strategic areas of the plane such as the nose and wings, ALTACAS enables the plane to “see” other craft around itself. To monitor other craft, the system provides imagery and information about the oncoming vehicle’s distance, speed and direction.
ALTACAS is designed to alert pilots to issues and to provide courses of evasive action, such as evacuating a runway if another craft cannot be diverted. (Image courtesy of ALTACAS Technology.)

ALTACAS is designed to alert pilots to issues and to provide courses of evasive action, such as evacuating a runway if another craft cannot be diverted. (Image courtesy of ALTACAS Technology.)

It can also automatically open a three-way communication between both vehicles and the nearest air traffic controller when it senses an issue such as a potential collision.

Like the TCAS, ALTACAS can monitor other craft in the cruise phase of flight. ALTACAS’ main advantage is that its technology can be used on the ground without excessive interference.

This, in combination with a runway lighting system reminiscent of traffic signals, could help reduce collisions on runways and during climbs and descents.

Spotting Collision Hazards

ALTACAS is also designed to detect oncoming vehicles even when the other vehicle is not equipped with the system. This is especially useful for unmanned vehicles such as drones and ground objects such as trucks or even humans.
In addition to its ability to

In addition to its ability to "see" other aircraft, ALTACAS can spot other vehicles including trucks and drones. (Image courtesy of ALTACAS Technology.)

It also presents a possibility for greater visibility when landing or taking off at dusk, at night, or in inclement weather.

The system was built to reduce the chances of human error in these situations. Pilot error has historically been a substantial contributor to aircraft crashes.

To improve the safety of aircraft on the ground, the ALTACAS chief engineer Bryan Smalls believes the system can be retrofitted to update current aircraft. He also believes that the system could be useful for trains and ships in the future.

For more information, check out the ALTACAS website.

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