New lightweight panels for “stealthy” buildings are validated for use at airports worldwide

Airbus has unveiled a new, lightweight thin-panel version of the “stealthy” panel technology that enables buildings to be constructed nearer to runways, opening development opportunities on land at airports that has remained vacant due to potential interference with signals from instrument landing systems.

13 June 2014 Feature story

Developed by Airbus and the Airbus Group Innovations corporate-level research network at its parent company, these “stealthy” panels can be applied to a building’s exterior to significantly reduce interference with safety-critical signals from instrument landing systems (ILS), which guide aircraft during arrivals in reduced visibility conditions.

After an initial version of the technology was successfully applied to a new Airbus hangar at Toulouse, France – using thicker crenelated-shaped aluminium panels that were 70 centimetres in depth – the lighter-weight and less bulky second-generation solution was developed with a thickness of just eight centimetres.

In evaluations at France’s Cahors Aerodrome, a thin-panel test prototype – measuring 30 metres wide and five metres tall – was evaluated in partnership with the French DGAC civil aviation authority, revealing a 90 percent reduction in the perturbation of ILS signals when compared to an untreated surface of a building.  

Details of the new thin-panel technology were provided by Airbus Chief Innovation Officer Yann Barbaux to international journalists at this week’s Airbus Innovation Days event in Toulouse, and a presentation of the test installation at Cahors Aerodrome is planned next Monday for potential users. 

The test panel at Cahors is covered by a high-visibility red/white surface for rain protection.  Behind this protective surface are blocks of folded aluminium panels with very precise dimensions that behave as an electronic resonator circuit.   These blocks interact with incoming radio waves from the ILS system, redirecting them away from the airport runway as not to perturb aircraft landing operations.  The blocks’ detailed form is defined by a software simulation tool called ELISE, which results from a collaboration of Airbus, Airbus Group Innovations and the French ENAC civil aviation academy. 

“With this thin, lightweight solution, we can build any kind of building close to runways,” said Andrew Thain, a Research Engineer at Airbus Group Innovations. “We can even apply it to existing buildings to reduce or eliminate perturbations with landing systems.”

It is conservatively estimated such “stealth” panels’ application could open up approximately 130 square kilometres for the construction of new buildings and structures at – and around – airport facilities worldwide in areas that, until now, remained undeveloped because of possible ILS signal interference.  The technology will be made available through the Airbus ProSky subsidiary.

“Some 150 airports around the world could be interested in this technology – most of them are surrounded by cities and have no extra room to expand,” explained Laurent Evain, Airbus ProSky’s ELISE Manager. “This solution will be very interesting for all airport stakeholders.”

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