Motivation

The Automated Radiation Measurements for Aviation Safety (ARMAS) project uses an innovative approach with a low-cost dosimeter sensor to enhance Earth science research and improve aviation safety. The ARMAS team will deploy and obtain data from dosimeters to be flown on commercial aircraft. These data will be retrieved in real-time, downlinked to the ground, and used in the validated Nowcast of Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety (NAIRAS) modeled radiation environment. The result will be improved accuracy of radiation dose and dose rates along flight tracks. In doing so, the ARMAS project has made a significant contribution toward improving U.S. and international aviation safety by laying the groundwork for an automated, reliable operational system that can monitor the natural galactic and solar radiation environment at commercial aviation flight levels.

Value

Aviation safety is a NASA concern for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), particularly for improved aviation crew safety. ARMAS will provide data for assimilation into NAIRAS and facilitate safer, more efficient air transportation. It will enable the airline industry, crew, frequent flyers, and FAA to quickly and accurately mitigate radiation exposure risk due to cosmic rays and solar energetic particle events.
End-users that will benefit from ARMAS are airline companies, aircrew professional associations, frequent flyers, FAA, NIOSH, DoD aviation, and NOAA SWPC. ARMAS will retrieve data through AirDat services and will expand dosimeter-equipped aircraft with the objective of global aviation radiation risk mitigation in major air transportation corridors (CONUS, North Atlantic, Pacific, Cross-Polar).

Implementation

The Phase I ARMAS project used an innovative approach with a low-cost instrument to enhance Earth science research and improve aviation safety. Between April and August 2011 the ARMAS team deployed and obtained data on 3 flights from a TEPC radiation detector that is the size of a small carry-on bag, including all associated electronics. It measured both the rate and the total quantities of the absorbed dose and the dose equivalent during three aircraft flights over North America. Both NAIRAS and TEPC showed a GCR flux environment around 1–3 μSv hr-1 at the 5-10 km flight altitudes. These data were used to validate and improve the NAIRAS modeled radiation environment. In doing so, the Phase I ARMAS project made a significant contribution toward improving U.S. and international aviation safety by laying the groundwork for an automated, reliable operational system that can monitor the natural galactic and solar radiation environment at commercial aviation flight levels.

ARMAS vision

In ARMAS Phase II, the project will:

  1. Integrate, fly, and operate two micro dosimeters on aircraft
  2. Validate and calibrate the micro dosimeters with a tissue equivalent proportional counter
  3. Retrieve the micro dosimeter dose and dose rate data in real-time via an automated downlink system
  4. Use the dose and dose rate measurements in a data assimilation algorithm to correct the NAIRAS model dose and dose rate output along the flight track
  5. Report the corrected dose and dose rate via server, web, Google Earth, and smart phone apps for aviations safety