Lockheed demos technology for detecting aircraft wakes

Lockheed Martin Corp. has co-developed a new laser-based technology for detecting and tracking the wake vortices produced by airplanes, the company said. Such technology could improve safety at the nation's airports.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin is developing the technology with prime contractor Flight Safety Technologies Inc. of Mystic, Conn., as part of project Socrates (Sensors for Characterizing Ring-eddy Atmospheric Turbulence Emanating Sound). The project's aim is to create a laser listening device that can "hear" the sound generated by wake vortices, which are dangerous winds generated by airplane wings.

Tests of the technology were conducted in September 2003 in conjunction with the NASA Langley Research Center and the Transportation Department's Volpe Transportation Systems Center, which are evaluating such tracking systems.

Flight Safety Technologies announced preliminary results last fall before finalizing the data in December.

During the tests, the project team installed acoustic equipment two miles from Denver International Airport. The Lockheed Martin-enhanced technology included four laser beams to better locate wake vortices.

"Over 715 wake vortices, created from small regional jets and much larger Boeing and Airbus jets, were detected and tracked during our Denver tests," said Walt Werner, Lockheed Martin's Socrates program manager.

Last October, Lockheed Martin received a $1.9 million contract from Flight Safety Technologies to enhance the technology. Werner said by adding more laser beams, Lockheed Martin could further improve the system's detection and tracking capabilities.

With 2002 revenue of $26.6 billion, Lockheed Martin ranked No. 1 on Washington Technology's 2003 Top 100 list, which measures federal contracting revenue.

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