CHELMSFORD, England, July 12 (UPI) -- BAE Systems scientists in England have successfully tested a laser airspeed sensor for use in next-generation high-altitude aircraft, the company announced Tuesday.
The Laser Air Speed Sensing Instrument, or LASSI, can accurately measure velocity even at low speeds, which will increase survivability while improving performance and fuel efficiency, BAE said in a statement.
Airspeed is conventionally determined using pitot tubes, which protrude from aircraft and sense air pressure variations.
Those tubes are vulnerable to icy conditions and can be damaged by collisions with birds.
BAE's LASSI uses the same principle as roadside speed guns and bounces ultraviolet laser light off air molecules before measuring the change in color of the reflections caused by the Doppler effect, BAE said.
The further away from the ultraviolet light the reflection is, the faster the aircraft is traveling. The detector can identify minute changes in color, which indicate aircraft speed, BAE said.
Unlike conventional air data sensors, LASSI can be located completely inside the aircraft, meaning less maintenance and damage potential, the company said.
LASSI is being exhibited at the Farnborough International Air Show.
BAE expects the component technology could be in use within the next five years.