UK-based low-cost carrier (LCC) EasyJet has welcomed a deal between Nicarnica Aviation and Elbit Systems to put the Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector (AVOID)-based ash detection technology into production.

The deal will see Nicarnica Aviation’s AVOID technology incorporated into Elbit Systems Enhanced Vision Systems (EVS) solution, with production scheduled to start next year.

EasyJet aims to fit the first unit onto one of its aircraft, becoming the first airline equipped with the volcanic ash avoidance system.

EasyJet engineering director Ian Davies said: “This deal signifies a tangible and significant step forward in bringing this technology from conception into reality. EasyJet has supported the development of this innovative technology since the 2010 volcanic eruption, which brought aviation to a halt in Europe. We look forward to being the first airline to fit this technology on our aircraft.”

The AVOID system is like a weather radar for ash, using infrared technology fitted to aircraft to supply images to pilots of any ash cloud up to 100 km ahead of the aircraft and at altitudes between 5,000 ft. and 50,000 ft.  Pilots will then be able to re-route their aircraft to avoid any ash cloud, and the images will also be transmitted to the airline’s operations control center.

On the ground, information from aircraft equipped with AVOID technology can be used to build an accurate image of volcanic ash clouds using real time data, potentially opening up large areas of airspace that might otherwise be closed during a volcanic eruption, minimizing disruption.

The technology was tested by Airbus last November through a unique experiment that involved the creation of an artificial ash cloud.