Solar glare and flight safety

Solar glare is a new and complex phenomenon affecting aviation. With a proposal submitted to build a Solar Plant within 9 nautical miles of a runway in Italy, Helios provided a quantitative risk assessment for the likely impacts of solar glare to aviation.

Customer

Ingegneria Dei Sistemi S.p.A, (IDS)

Context

Solar glare is a comparatively new and complex phenomenon affecting aviation, which has become more widespread with the successful growth of solar energy.

A proposal was put forward for a large solar power plant to be situated near to a regional airport in Italy and within 9 nautical miles of the runway. The Concentrated Solar Plant (CSP) would consist of 2,980 mirrors and cover approximately two hectares. There was concern from all the aviation parties that the proposals would adversely affect safety.

Role of Helios

Helios was contracted by IDS to deliver a quantitative risk assessment for the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) on the likely impacts of solar glare. Helios's study with IDS, involved a complex geometric analysis, computing luminance, evaluating glare and simulating effects, as well as testing against scenarios.

Helios' methodology developed for the solar glare assessment consisted of:

  • Determining the theoretical characteristics of the aircraft approach path.
  • Determining where the interception of the flight path and likely reflection were to occur.
  • Evaluating the luminance in terms of the solar reflections from the heliostats, given the position of the aircraft.

Results

The report concluded that given the line of sight and overall dimensions of the proposed solar plant, that the luminescence towards pilots on approach to the nearby aerodrome under visual conditions could be hazardous to aviation safety.

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