Lithuanian scientists developed a technology, which may prevent air accidents

Important | 2024-02-29

Researchers from Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania have developed a method and a device which can calculate a safe distance for the take-off and thus diminish the probability of aircraft accidents. The invention has been granted a patent from the US Patent Office.

Aviation history is written in blood, as the old saying goes – a great many of the aircraft safety regulations grew out of somebody else’s tragedy. As recent data shows, the vast majority of fatal air accidents involve general aviation aircraft, especially those with a maximum take-off mass of less than 2,250 kg. In 2022, these accidents accounted for 83% of all fatalities in the air. While more than half of all aircraft accidents occur during landing, the accidents during take-off are in second place.

Small planes are susceptible to adverse weather conditions

Runway phases of the flight require more activity from the pilots than any other. For the takeoff, several aspects are critical – the length of the runway, the speed, the altitude and the weather. These aspects are also interconnected – if the runway is too short, the plane might not reach sufficient speed for the take-off. On the other hand, the runway may be of sufficient length but the opposing force of the wind is so strong that it slows the aircraft down.

“Small planes are usually those which are affected by the adverse weather conditions,” says Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) Emeritus Professor Vytautas Dumbrava, a co-author of the invention aimed at improving aircraft safety during a take-off.

KTU researchers Dr Darijus Pagodinas and Dr Vytautas Dumbrava have developed a method and a device, which can determine a safe aircraft runway distance for the take-off. A portable autonomous device measures the acceleration of the aircraft from the instantaneous speed and the runway distance covered from the start of the acceleration. If the remaining runway distance is not enough for a safe take-off, the device provides visual or audible information about the situation and signals to the pilot.

Aircraft safety patent
Emeritus Professor Vytautas Dumbrava and Darijus Pagodinas

As a method, the algorithm calculating the remaining runway length developed by KTU scientists may be readily implemented in the aircraft flight control equipment. The method and the device have been granted a US patent.

“In essence, the idea of our invention is aimed at eliminating the subjective element of the pilot’s judgement. The calculations are made by our technology, which signals the pilot in the first 10 seconds of the take-off. This leaves enough time for the pilot to stop the aircraft,” explains Vytautas Dumbrava.

The patented solution is both portable and autonomous

The portable device created at KTU uses the parameters of the aircraft accelerometers, and the pilot of light or ultralight aircraft has to enter 5 additional parameters: magnetic course of the runway, wind direction and speed, approximate length of the runway, and the takeoff speed (or, in aviation terms, v1 speed). The device is turning acceleration into speed, and speed into distance, and while the aircraft is rolling on the runway its location and the possibility of taking off are being calculated.

“The innovative meter can be useful for all aircraft, where even a small change of direction or speed of wind or other conditions is of critical importance,” says Emeritus Professor Dumbrava.

There are known solutions for determining safe take-off distance that incorporate a combination of external sensor data, and solutions to alert the pilot. However, they require complicated installation of a device, making them essentially non-transferable to another aircraft, and the use of external sensors limits their compatibility with smaller aircraft which do not have certain advanced sensor capabilities or aircraft which may operate outside of, say, GPS signal area.

The method and the patented device developed by KTU scientists would specifically be beneficial to small recreational aircraft which use shorter runways. Moreover, the invention provides a technical solution that is both portable and autonomous, i.e. no external sensors are necessary for operation.

The commercialisation of the product is facilitated by KTU National Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre – a one-stop shop for knowledge-intensive businesses to contact research.