Sigma Space’s Micro Pulse LiDAR (MPL) was installed at Bariloche airport in Argentina on January 30th at the request of the Argentinean Ministry of Defense. Since the June 2011 eruption of the Chilean volcano Puyehue, Bariloche has been suffering from intermittent ash clouds blowing from the volcano, frequently closing the airport. Sigma Space’s rugged, portable, and highly automated MPL system was rapidly deployed.
Volcanic ash has been a recurrent impediment to normal air-traffic operations in Europe, Asia and South America over the last few years. LiDAR networks such as EARLINET have observed volcanic ash distributions, but this MPL deployment demonstrates the first operational use of real-time LiDAR ash data to inform airport aviation safety. Sigma’s MPL permits determination of ash concentration profiles in seconds. Real time information is key to aviation safety.
Hector Ciappesoni, director of the Meteorological Service of Argentina, said, “with the new equipment, companies will have an accurate picture of ash clouds, which will enable them to cancel flights only in extreme conditions of concentration of particles in the air”.“This equipment brings the airport to the highest safety standards,” said Rio Negro governor Alberto Weretilneck. He highlighted that the quick response of the Defense Ministry to the order of the President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, enabled the airport to operate normally since procuring the LiDAR.
Marcos Sirota, President of Sigma Space and an Argentina native, traveled to Bariloche to personally supervise the installation of the MPL. He stated “It brings great pride to our company to provide the world’s first operational LiDAR for volcanic ash monitoring. After calibration we will be able to provide quantitative information in real time. LiDAR networks will be able to report both vertical and regional ash distribution worldwide. A true breakthrough for aviation”.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is developing new standards for the incorporation of LiDAR information into regular forecasts worldwide, as LiDAR measurements could provide a comprehensive assessment of ash distribution in flight corridors
Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data.
The MPL in its final deployment (in its enclosure) at the Argentinean Airport.