Atmospheric Ice Detection and Avoidance System for Fixed and Rotary Wing Aircraft
Navy SBIR 2014.2 - Topic N142-101
NAVAIR - Ms. Donna Moore -
Opens: May 23, 2014 - Closes: June 25, 2014

N142-101 TITLE: Atmospheric Ice Detection and Avoidance System for Fixed and Rotary Wing Aircraft



OBJECTIVE: Develop an ice detection/avoidance system for aircraft that minimizes space, weight, power and cooling (SWaP-C) integration concerns and detects potential icing conditions along a flight path up to 20 miles from the aircraft.

DESCRIPTION: Current ice detection systems can only detect ice accumulation on the aircraft itself, and/or detect temperature conditions that may result in potential icing–they do not have the ability to analyze the water composition at a safe stand-off distance from the aircraft, thus preventing the ice build-up in the first place. An Ice Detection/Avoidance system that is capable of distinguishing between ordinary cloud droplets (that can cause only rime icing) and drizzle droplets, which cause dangerous clear icing that may spread beyond the deicing equipment of an aircraft, is desired. It is critical that this new system be able perform this ice detection capability at a safe operating distance from the potential icing area (up to 20 miles) and provide range and bearing to allow adequate time for pilot action to maneuver away from the inclement weather. The Ice Detection/Avoidance system should be capable of measuring the amount of water in the atmosphere, temperature of liquid droplets in the atmosphere (including whether the water is super-cooled), and recognizing the difference between liquid droplets and frozen water to determine whether potential icing conditions along the route exist. Passive microwave systems used in meteorological satellite programs have met with success in determining water composition and temperature in clouds. However, the current size of such systems is not compatible with aircraft use and would need to be miniaturized for low SWaP-C aircraft applications.

System weight should be no more than 15 pounds to include antennas; power should be less than 100 watts, antenna size should not exceed 12 inch diameter with flush mounting, and avionics size should be less than 120 cubic inches. The system should not require external air cooling and should be capable of operating at sustained operating temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

PHASE I: Develop and prove feasibility of a design for the ice detection/avoidance system. Include modeling and simulation of the system’s detection capability of varying water composition (water droplet size and temperature variation) found in the atmosphere from surface to 40,000 feet.

PHASE II: Develop an ice detection/avoidance system prototype and perform lab demonstration. Conduct flight testing on a surrogate test aircraft; this includes providing a test aircraft, installation of the test system, flight test costs, and any range test costs associated with the flight testing of this system.

PHASE III: Productionize ice detection/avoidance system hardware and mature remaining algorithms. Finalize and transition system to appropriate Navy fixed wing, rotary wing and UAV platforms. Develop manufacturing capabilities and commercialization plans.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: This technology has wide applicability to both government and commercial aviation as a safety of flight system.

1. Jackson, D. and Goldberg, J., Ice Detection Systems: A Historical Perspective, SAE Technical Paper 2007-01-3325, doi:10.4271/2007-01-3325.

2. Lawmakers Press FAA on SLD Icing, Air Safety Week, 24(9), 2010, Retrieved from

3. Prata, A. J. & Bernado, C., 2012, System and Method for Detecting Adverse Atmospheric Conditions Ahead of an Aircraft, WIPO Patent Application WO/2013/091902, Retrieved from

4. Vivekanandan, J., 1998, Ice Detection Using Radiometers, US Patent No. 5,777,481, Retrieved from

5. Lines, R. T., Savage, R. C., and Cole, J., 2001, Microwave Icing Avoidance System, International Application No. PCT/US2000/031207, Retrieved from

KEYWORDS: Ice detection; Ice avoidance; Weather Avoidance; Aircraft Icing Conditions; Microwave System; Safety Systems

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