To describe a new laser‐based, optical airspeed sensor development project. Dubbed laser air speed sensor instrument (LASSI), the sensor aims to overcome certain operational limitations of existing devices used on aircraft.Design/methodology/approach – The LASSI system is being developed by a consortium of UK organisations. It relies on Doppler wavelength shifting and involves firing short duration laser pulses from the aircraft into the atmosphere and measuring the velocity‐induced Doppler shift in the reflected (Rayleigh scattered) signal. The source is a diode‐pumped Nd:YAG laser operating at UV wavelengths.Findings – The project has reached the stage where a prototype system test bed is being assembled. Preliminary findings suggest that the system will offer a number of operational and economic benefits over existing devices, notably Pitot tubes.Originality/value – This new optical system is expected to improve helicopter safety during low‐speed activities, yield fuel savings on long‐haul passenger aircraft through a reduction in drag and also reduce the radar cross‐section of military aircraft.
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