Reliable ice detection on airplanes offers highest security

Due to security reasons, de-icing of airplanes is crucial. Ice and snow increase the weight of the airplane and thus have a negative impact on its aerodynamics. Ice detection and quantification on airplanes (especially small airplanes in air traffic) has not been sufficiently solved yet.

There are several de-icing options before and during flight, but are severely limited in functionality. This, of course, has negative effects on energy efficiency and fuel consumption. In general aviation, pilots have to visually inspect and assess ice on the wings and other important parts (for example sensors and air vents). This has to happen not only before, but also during flight.

Scalable system to control several de-icing systems

eologix has set the goal to adapt the reliable and promising ice detection technology, already successfully used in wind power systems, to aviation. In a multi-annual research project, sponsored by the FFG, in collaboration with Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt, FH Joanneum GmbH and Villinger GmbH, the feasibility of a retrofittable system for ice detection has been positively evaluated.

This system can not only be flexibly mounted and scaled, but also used to control different de-icing systems.

Accurate measurement, retrofittable and flexible

Commercially available systems for anti- and de-icing of airplanes need the actual ice thickness as control variable. Currently used ice sensors are usually based on indirect measurement methods of ice detection (oscillating icing bar, for example). Usually the mounting position of these sensors is far away from the aerodynamic areas, that have to be supervised, such as the leading edge of the wing or the inlet scrolls. Furthermore, the available ice sensors are relatively imprecise and cannot distinguish between different types of ice (rime ice, transparent ice). To prevent icing, there are several different principles, such as pneumatic elements on the wing leading edge, chemical or (electro-) thermic de-icing systems, which can directly be integrated into the airplane structure.

An accurate, sensitive and flexible ice detection system, which can be mounted on relevant positions, offers many advantages:

  • Security aspects: Exact and early detection of accumulating icing during a flight can reduce the risk of accidents due to aerodynamic disruption. This is especially relevant for small airplanes.
  • Mechanical impact: the burden on the wings due to aerodynamic effects is reduced, since icing can be detected early and for example different de-icing methods can be activated and deactivated at appropriate times.
  • Efficiency and cost advantages: During conservative de-icing cycles, fuel consumption rises enormously (for example with (electro-) thermic de-icing). With more precise detection of ice accumulation, the systems could be managed more efficiently, which leads to a reduction of fuel consumption.