Wx radar by Collins smooths the bumps

 - November 16, 2006, 6:06 AM

The next flight you take could be much smoother, thanks to a new airborne weather radar design from U.S. avionics maker Rockwell Collins.

The Multi Hazard Detection weather radar includes a number of advanced features that the manufacturer said are intended to warn flight crews of potential areas of turbulence and provide extra information about developing storms.

Essentially an enhanced version of the MultiScan weather radar introduced by Rockwell Collins about four years ago and in service with dozens of airlines, the new radar incorporates technologies that the manufacturer claims will make flying safer, smoother and more efficient.

The foundation of the radar’s new capabilities is a feature called directed sequential hazard assessment, which takes the information provided by conventional radars and, using a combination of horizontal and vertical scans, performs a threat analysis based on storm height, growth rate and turbulence potential, all referenced to the airplane’s flight plan.

Other features include flight path hazard analysis, storm top information, predictive overflight protection and enhanced turbulence detection. The hazard analysis feature takes threat information and combines with the aircraft’s flight path, giving pilots an easy to understand evaluation of the actual weather threat ahead. The new Collins radar also uses its threat-detection algorithms to determine the top of a storm cell, giving the crew a better idea of how to avoid it. Next, predictive overflight protection measures storm growth rate and makes a prediction about whether the storm (or the clear-air turbulence bubble above the storm) will reach the airplane’s altitude.

The feature sure to be of most interest to airlines is the MultiScan Hazard Detection radar’s enhanced turbulence-detection capability. Dozens of passengers and crewmembers are injured each year by turbulence, with flight attendants usually suffering the worst. Broken ankles are the most common type of serious injury reported. As a result, weather radar manufacturers have made improved turbulence detection a priority and the number and severity of injuries have been on the decline.

The Collins radar scans 40 nm ahead of the aircraft and indicates areas of potential turbulence on the radar screen. Speckled magenta on the screen indicates light turbulence and solid magenta moderate or stronger turbulence.

New MultiScan radars will include the enhanced features. In addition, airline customers can add the capabilities to existing MultiScan radars through software updates sold by Rockwell Collins (Hall 4 Stand F10).