Rough weather can often be a nightmare for air travelers and airline operators. Weather related incidents cause upsets to airline schedules, cost money, and undermine passenger confidence in addition to causing injuries. According to the FAA, in-flight turbulence causes more injuries in the air than anything else. It is not uncommon for aircraft to encounter significant convective weather activity during flight.
Conventional Weather Radar Systems
Conventional onboard weather radar systems send out a beam in front of the aircraft and receive a signal that bounces back off of objects (i.e. water droplets in clouds) in the sky. Pilots have a tilt knob used to adjust the beam of the radar up or down, but the pilot can only see one slice of the sky at once. Pilot proficiency with the weather radar system requires comprehensive training and years of experience. Operationally, it also requires the pilot to expend a great deal of effort to work the radar control knobs to create a mental model of the 3D weather at a time when the pilot may be better served attending to other pilot duties. In addition to the human factors issues of relying on the pilot to work the knobs and create a mental picture of the weather, there are technical limitations with conventional radar systems -- the legacy systems have performance issues at longer ranges and with bigger storms due to attenuation of the radar signal.
IntuVue™: Clean Sheet Design
Honeywell created IntuVue as the first clean sheet onboard weather radar design delivered in the market in 40 years and it provides the pilots a more complete view of the weather. The system uses radar pulse compression and 3D volumetric scanning to create a new 3D weather radar system with enhanced weather detection, improved pilot usability and reduced operator costs. The radar pulse compression technology helps increase range and resolution. Additionally, the 3D volumetric scanning function creates a 3D database. The processor can analyze this database for hazards. All of this helps paint the weather picture for the pilot automatically - from the ground to 60,000 feet. In fact, the system can store weather data from 2 million cubic feet of airspace in front of the aircraft out to 320 nautical miles!
Designed to be fully automatic, IntuVue does not require manual adjustment to system antenna for operation. As a result of its intuitive and easy operation, it reduces pilot workload and provides more time for the pilot to focus on detection and analysis rather than physically manipulating the radar controls. With IntuVue, the pilots now get an optional vertical profile display of the weather in addition to the traditional top-down lateral view. In addition, IntuVue’s new technology translates to helping the pilots instantly see if there is any turbulence, lightning or hail along the flightplan by providing an easy to interpret color coded display with graphical icons. In the future (with a software upgrade), IntuVue technology may also help pilots better detect and/or infer presence of ice crystals which have been identified in some incidents as a contributor to jet engine power loss at high altitudes.
IntuVue weather radar is available now on many commercial (e.g., A380, B777), business jet (e.g., G650, Falcon 7X) and military platforms (e.g., C-17) and the list is growing quickly with additional certifications pending. If you are lucky enough to catch a flight on any of these birds that are equipped with IntuVue, rest assured that your pilots are empowered with a fantastic situation awareness system that helps them spot turbulence earlier and maximize passenger comfort and safety (and reduce fuel costs). But do yourself and your family a favor, from the time the airplane pushes back from the gate until the time it arrives, obey the illuminated fasten seatbelt sign and keep yourself seated and buckled. And don’t forget to watch your head when those overhead bins are opened; the most common cause of head injury on planes is when objects fall from the overhead bins!