EADS Innovation Works teams with Airbus to create “stealthy” airport buildings

8 April 2013

An EADS Innovation Works cooperative effort with Airbus has developed a highly effective technology that enables the construction of buildings nearer to airport runways without hindering the vital landing systems that guide aircraft to a safe touchdown.

Patented by EADS Innovation Works and Airbus, this design applies specially-shaped aluminium “diffraction grating” panels to prevent a building from scattering signals broadcast by the airport’s Instrument Landing System (ILS), used during aircraft arrivals in reduced visibility conditions.

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The aluminium “diffraction grating” panels are installed on Airbus’ C65 hangar in Toulouse.

A software simulation tool called ELISE determines how these aluminium panels should be applied, and confirms their effectiveness in making a building “stealthy” in relation to the ILS signals. ELISE results from a collaboration of EADS Innovation Works, Airbus and the French ENAC aviation school, with this software tool taking into account such factors as a building’s size, orientation and location relative to the ILS installation.

“This evolved from many years of work on perturbations to Instrument Landing Systems, applying the very sophisticated simulation tools at EADS Innovation Works,” explained Andrew Thain, a research engineer in the Toulouse operations at EADS Innovation Works.

The first use of this technology is on Airbus’ own C65 hangar, which has been built in the A330 final assembly area at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in France. Without the diffraction grating panels, the hangar would scatter signals from the ILS at the airport’s nearby Runway 14R/32R, potentially making the landing system unreliable.

By using ELISE to determine the diffraction grating panels’ installation, the C65 hangar has become “stealthy” in relation to the ILS signals. In addition, the ELISE software simulations determined that only the building’s upper 11 meters needed to be covered with the aluminium panels for the necessary effectiveness.

With this technology now demonstrated, it is being made available through the Airbus ProSky air traffic management subsidiary, thereby opening opportunities for airports worldwide to build on land that – until now – has remained empty because of potential interference with the Instrument Landing Systems.

In addition, EADS Innovation Works has now designed and patented a “thin panel” solution measuring only 8 cm. in depth on the outside, which resembles a conventional building façade and also is lightweight. A prototype will be built and tested this year with assistance of the French civil aviation authorities.