View Mobile Site

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Aircraft Accident Prevention Technology

TopicsMore

March 24, 2017
JAXA begins demonstration tests on snow and ice monitoring sensors

Demonstration tests on snow and ice monitoring sensors, which JAXA has led the way in researching and developing, have begun at Kitami Institute of Technology (Kitami, Hokkaido) in December 2016. ...[more]

It is forecasted that air transport demand will double during the next 20 years. This increase in air transport creates the possibility of more aircraft accidents. Primary factors of aircraft accidents include special weather and human error. It is extremely important to implement measures for addressing such factors.

In terms of special weather, Japan faces one of the world's most severe environments for aircraft in the winter season. In addition to slippery conditions caused by snow, relatively large aircraft are operated on short runways. As a result, operation of aircraft is greatly affected by snow and ice on runways. The adherence of snow and ice to the airframe also has a significant impact on operation, particularly takeoff and landing. Furthermore, thunder is extremely strong during winter and the airframe will suffer more serious damage when struck by lightning. Generally speaking, it is difficult to predict snow and lightning. Although aircraft are designed to maintain a certain level of safety even when such weather occurs, the fact remains that operation efficiency is decreased in order to heighten safety. Moreover, when unforeseen weather conditions occur, there is the possibility of accidents and malfunctions.

In terms of human error, it is not sufficient to only implement measures for human error which can be foreseen in advance. Therefore, it is necessary to take measures by predicting potential errors.

In order to efficiently maintain airframe safety against the risks of special weather and human error, JAXA is conducting research and development for aircraft accident prevention technology. Specific developments are protection technology for weather disturbances, which detects and predicts the condition of the airframe, runway, and weather (airframe anti-icing technology, technology for ice contaminated runways, advance weather prediction technology, anti-lightning technology, engine technology for resistance to special weather), and Operational Procedure Safety Analysis Monitoring System (OPSAMS), technology which predicts and protects against threats by forecasting potential human error.

WEATHER-Eye (WEATHER-Endurance Aircraft Technology to Hold, Evade and Recover by Eye) technology

Next Generation Aeronautical Innovation Hub Center

Weather conditions have a major impact on aircraft operation. Winter in Japan brings with it some of the world’s harshest conditions for aircraft. For example, the adherence of snow and ice to the airframe has a significant impact on aircraft operation, particularly during takeoff. Snow accumulation on runways increases the risk of an overshoot, given the slippery quality of snow in Japan, and the fact that relatively large aircraft are operated on short runways. Moreover, lightning during winter (winter lightning) carries more energy than lightning in summer, causing greater damage when it strikes an airframe.

Aircraft are designed to maintain a measure of safety even if they are subjected to the adherence of snow and ice or a lightning strike, and so on. It is also true that measures are taken to ensure they are operated more safely even at the expense of efficiency. In the event of weather conditions that exceed our assumptions, serious accidents and malfunctions may occur.

In order to efficiently maintain airframe safety against weather conditions, JAXA is conducting research and development of WEATHER-Eye (WEATHER-Endurance Aircraft Technology to Hold, Evade and Recover by Eye), which is a group of technologies designed to detect airframe, runway, and weather conditions, and predict and protect against weather impact. The technologies that comprise WEATHER-Eye are contaminated runway detection technology, lightning risk prediction technology, lightning protection technology, engine anti-icing/deicing technology, and engine CMAS (Calcium-Magnesium-Alumino-Silicate) prevention technology.

Operation image

Contaminated runway detection technology

Real-time monitoring of the conditions of snow and ice on runways enables a swift decision making on whether an aircraft can land or take off safely. Previously, monitoring of snow accumulation on runways was limited to sensors that could assess the presence of snow to help decide whether it needed to be removed. In order to support operation, however, more detailed information about snow accumulation and the conditions of snow and ice is needed. To address this need, through a joint industry-government-academia research, JAXA is working to develop an embedded runway sensor that measures the type and depth of snow and ice.

Image of contaminated runway detection technology

Lightning risk prediction technology

Advance information about weather conditions that might cause icing or lightning strikes makes it possible for an aircraft to avoid weather conditions that present a threat during operation. In addition to contributing to aircraft safety, this also reduces airframe repairs to fix damages caused by lightning strikes, which leads to improved operating efficiency. Accordingly, JAXA has started working to develop technology for the advance detection of weather conditions.


FLIGHT PATH No.15/16 "Tactical lightning avoidance technology"

Image of system using lightning risk prediction technology


Lightning protection technology

It is difficult to prevent all lightning from striking aircraft. Therefore, it is extremely important to minimize the damage caused to airframes by lightning strikes. In response, through an industry-government-academia partnership, JAXA is working to develop technology that minimizes damage caused by lightning strikes through the use of special structures and materials. Moreover, JAXA has also started working on technology that controls where on the airframe lightning strikes.

Image of lightning protection technology

Engine anti-icing/de-icing technology

The adherence of ice to engines, especially fans, may cause a decrease of thrust or damage to the inside of the engines by detached ice. To address this issue, JAXA is working to develop numerical simulation and experimental techniques for icing, a wing design that reduces ice accretion, and heating technology for anti-icing and de-icing.

Engine CMAS prevention technology

Dust (volcanic ash and grit) entering a jet engine may cause erosion, damaging the fan or turbine. Under certain conditions, deposition may occur, causing volcanic ash to adhere to the fan or turbine and decreased thrust. To help prevent this, JAXA has started working to develop technology for increasing anti-erosion and anti-deposition properties.

Electronic Monitoring Technology for Human Behavior

Operation image
(Monitors pilot behavior and conditions surrounding the aircraft, detects errors and threats, and gives appropriate advice to the pilot)

Operational Procedure Safety Analysis Monitoring System (OPSAMS)

Accidents caused by human error consist of a major cause and several background causes. Therefore, it is necessary to extract unsafe elements from daily operation data which does not lead to an accident. In response, JAXA has started work to develop technology for extracting unsafe elements (pilot error and other elements which affect safety) from operation data.

System image of OPSAMS

PAGE TOP