Volcanic ash detectors to be tested by EasyJet, Airbus


Low-cost British airline easyJet PLC unveiled plans Friday to test an infrared system’s ability to detect volcanic ash clouds.

“This pioneering technology is the silver bullet that will make large-scale ash disruption history,” CEO Andy Harrison told reporters in London.

He hopes the system can prevent a repeat of the five-day shutdown of European airspace in April caused by an erupting Icelandic volcano that affected 10 million passengers worldwide.

The Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector, called AVOID, is placed on an aircraft’s tail fin. It is designed to detect ash clouds within 60 miles, “essentially a weather radar for ash,” Harrison said.

EasyJet is spending $1.46 million to develop and test the technology with jet manufacturer Airbus. They hope to roll out the devices in a dozen planes by the end of the year.

Use of AVOID will need approval from regulators across Europe.