Notre Dame showcases new research aircraft - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Notre Dame showcases new research aircraft

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Airplanes will be shooting lasers in the skies above Michiana.  It's not for the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but for science.

The University of Notre Dame's Airborne Aero-Optics Laboratory (AAOL) on Friday unveiled its new Falcon 10 aircraft.  The aircraft was recently donated to the University's research team by Philadelphia businessman, Matthew McDevitt.  

The laboratory is exploring ways to use laser systems on planes and other aircraft.  Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Dr Eric Jumper says planes have difficulty using lasers because even a tiny amount of turbulence can effectively turn a laser into a really expensive flashlight.  AAOL is working to solve the problem, but they need to test their designs at speeds above Mach .8.

With the new aircraft, along with another plane they currently rent, the team can fire a laser between them to see how well their turbulence-canceling system works.  Jumper, says this research will go on to help many different people.  "It is really an enabling technology for things like free space optical communication with laser beams," Jumper said, "and for weapon systems, offensive and defensive, and for imaging and things like that."

The plane will only be used for research, but the University will work with outside researching agencies to share the laboratory.

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