An airborne icing condition detection and characterization system, such as RIDES, will have wide applications in the study of the threat icing conditions pose to aircraft. In addition, the system will allow for climate change studies that look at aerosol concentration and distribution, including water vapor/liquid water content, in the atmosphere. There is potential to combine such a system with MAC's optical air data system and turbulence-detection systems into a unified system that would sense both icing conditions and turbulence hazards ahead and report airspeed along with air, temperature and density routinely.
Outside NASA, military and civil aviation is often affected by icing, sometimes severely (e.g., Comair flight 3272 in 1997, Air France flight 447 in 2009) and the ability to detect these conditions so as to avoid or at least account for them (activating de-icing systems, etc.) would be of tremendous safety value, suggesting a substantial market. Michigan Aerospace Corporation is already working on NASA projects for clear-air turbulence (CAT) detection and volcanic ash detection ahead of an aircraft. Adding SLD to these optical air data system (OADS)-derived capabilities will lead to a powerful suite of optical instruments capable of measuring air data (air speed and direction along with air density and temperature) and warning of icing conditions, volcanic ash and clear-air turbulence, all without protruding into the flow around the aircraft and without ports or probes that can clog with debris or ice up.