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Ash from Iceland volcano to be used to test aircraft warning system

May 9, 2013 at 6:09 PM   |   Comments

LUTON, England, May 9 (UPI) -- Engineers say they've flown a ton of volcanic ash from Iceland to Britain to test an aircraft warning system designed to detect ash clouds.

Ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which caused widespread travel chaos across European airspace when it erupted in 2010, will be dispersed into the atmosphere in "controlled conditions" while an airliner equipped with the warning system attempts to measure the potential hazard, the BBC reported Thursday.

The Airborne Volcanic Object Imaging Detector system, developed by the Easyjet airline, airliner manufacturer Airbus and scientists from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, has been compared to weather radar but uses infrared technology to detect ash in the atmosphere.

"The threat from Icelandic volcanoes continues so finalizing approval of the AVOID technology is as crucial now as ever, to ensure we never again see the scenes of spring 2010 when all flying ceased for several days," Easyjet engineering director Ian Davies said.

"It means that in the event of another eruption and ash coming down over Europe we'll be able to determine where it is and fly in areas that are absolutely safe."

The ash, dried to a powder consistency, will be used in an experiment set for August.

"One aircraft will sprinkle about a ton of ash into the atmosphere and another will come at it from a distance with our instrument mounted onboard and see the cloud," Fred Prata, a senior scientist with the Norwegian institute, said.

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