Assessment of Forward Sensing Turbulence Detection Strategies for Stratospheric Flight

PI: Sean Bailey, University of Kentucky, Qamar Shams (Co-I), NASA/Langley Research Center

Designed to advance flight of suborbital and low-Earth orbit vehicles—as well as aviation in general—this effort will test new methods for forward-sensing turbulence detection. Researchers will examine the potential for sensing long-range gust and turbulence at high altitude using a two-factor approach. The goal is to identify atmospheric disturbances before the vehicle encounters them, allowing automated flight controllers to perform risk-mitigation maneuvers.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA08 Science Instruments, Observations and Sensor Systems
Problem Statement

Currently, significant gaps exist in the forward detection of turbulence, impacting commercial use of suborbital and low-Earth orbit vehicles and aviation generally. In this demonstration, researchers will assess the feasibility of detecting the infrasonic signature of turbulence using a single microphone as well as investigate the potential of using an in-situ reduced-order model to forward-predict the presence of turbulence at high altitudes.

Technology Maturation

Using the stratosphere as an analog for suborbital and low-atmosphere environments, this experiment will launch an unmanned scientific glider from a balloon at altitudes of 30–50 km to test new methods of forward-sensing turbulence detection. The system’s sensors have a TRL of 4 and the unmanned glider platform is at TRL 7. Successful tests will move the sensor technology from TRL 4 to 7.

Future Customers

Aircraft developers, including sub-orbital and hypersonic aircraft.
Commercial passenger carriers seeking to detect and avoid turbulent conditions.
Researchers studying atmospheric fluid dynamic gravity waves and the effects on weather and climate.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights19 (Oct 2019)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 Balloon

Development Team

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