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Preventing air accidents

Collisions between light aircraft and helicopters and high voltage cables represent ten percent of aircraft accidents in Norway. Photo: Øyvind Nordahl Næss.
A Norwegian, satellite-based system aims to ensure that helicopters and light aircraft are prevented from colliding with power lines and other obstacles.

Collisions between light aircraft and helicopters and high voltage cables, wind turbines, high-rise buildings, oil platforms and telephony masts are all too frequent. A small company from Norway called NobileSoft is aiming to solve this problem. Founder and helicopter pilot Jan Ivar Sandnes believes that a GPS-based system is needed to do the job. He has now joined forces with SINTEF and other partners such as Statnett, and Energy Norway, to realize the project.

To date, the most important warnings pilots receive as they approach a hazardous obstacle have been orange balloons or lights. In conditions of poor visibility or blinding by intense light, a pilot may fail to see an obstacle before it’s too late.

The idea of warning light aircraft and helicopters using a GPS-based system represents an alternative technology to an earlier collision avoidance system (OCAS) which has been used in many locations in Norway, the USA and Canada. But OCAS got the thumbs down following a proposal for new statutory regulations put forward by the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority in 2009.

The aim of NobileSoft now is to develop a commercial version of the new system. Since the project continues to face technical and research-related challenges, a public sector research and development contract (OFU) has been entered into with Innovation Norway.

“There is great interest in this project from overseas, and now that we have research expertise and experience backing it up, it would be very interesting to establish a multinational consortium to promote the system in the global market”, says Sandnes.

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    Trond Bakken

    Marketing Director for EU Research in SINTEF Digital