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Scientists study enhanced aviation-warning system

by Rudy Purificato
311th Human Systems Wing Public Affairs

1/7/2005 - BROOKS CITY-BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Air Force Research Laboratory scientists have launched a study here that supports the development of a new flight-warning system designed to significantly enhance pilot safety.

Incidents of general aviation pilots violating controlled airspace led to the study, which focuses on safely using laser light for a new aviation signaling system.

"It became obvious to air traffic controllers that a secondary warning system beyond radio communications is needed to let pilots know to change course," said Maj. (Dr.) Laura Barnes, principal investigator for the optical radiation branch in the laboratory's human effectiveness directorate.

The potential for navigational confusion near critical infrastructures prompted the aviation community to find an effective secondary signal warning system, Major Barnes said. This proposed system would be a better alternative to today's broadband light sources, such as ground-based warning lights, that cannot be effective across long distances.

The study, being conducted in phases, began with a preliminary investigation using experienced pilots. Ten pilots observed a series of laser signals, varying in intensity, during simulated day and night flight scenarios.

"We're fine-tuning the system to ensure that cognitive interpretation (of the laser signals) is satisfactory," Major Barnes said. Specifically, the proposed signaling system must not be confused with the many distracting light sources typically encountered over urban areas and must not hamper navigation. (Courtesy of Air Force Material Command News Service)

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