Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Beacon in a Balloon to Broadcast Alerts after an Aircraft Mishap

An AN 32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force was reported lost over the Bay of Bengal on July 22, 2016. Visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Indian_Air_Force_An-32_disappearance 

Incidentally, Wikipedia offers a very interesting article on the aircraft AN 32; it mentions that the “estimated price for a modernized AN-32 version is 15 million US dollars”.
This made me revisit a posting in this blog dated March 22, 2014. Visit http://newstudentresearch.blogspot.in/2014/03/the-need-to-invent-secondary-data.html

I have another possibility to explore in this posting. Is it possible to design and develop a device that, like an ejection seat, would be released after an aircraft mishap to carry information and broadcast it in the short wave band? The device, possibly mounted in an external pod, would monitor data such as the flight path, altitude, attitude and acceleration and store them in a secondary data recorder (SDS). Ideally, it would have its own sensors and operate independently of the aircraft’s instruments. The flight path would be recorded as a series of points in terms of GPS coordinates. The device, after ejection, would inflate a helium balloon and release it. The SDS would constitute one part of the payload of the balloon, along with a short wave transmitter. The alerts would be broadcast using a non-directional shortwave antenna sending out essential information giving GPS coordinates of where the device was ejected as well as the current position of the balloon. If, after a couple of days, the balloon comes down due to leakage of helium, its payload would continue sending wireless signals to enable its recovery. It would float if it lands on water.

Such a solution would present many challenges to a designer. What would be the difficulties in launching a helium balloon from a device ejected from a flying aircraft? What would be the security risks in using such a device with military aircraft? What should be done to make the SDS easily recoverable? Can the balloon drop it with a small parachute on wireless command? What would the transmitter power be, and what antennas would it require?

The proposed solution has several attractive features. The alert could be received at multiple airports within minutes of a mishap, enabling the quick launch of missions to recover any survivors. The system will work over land and sea. Search aircraft and ships would not have to spend weeks searching over tens of thousands of square kilometers. 

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