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Laser Tech’s Universal Laser Sensor Powers ‘Smart’ Gear System for Amphibious Airplanes

by T Hart, 11/12/21

Wipaire Inc. is a Minnesota-based company that has engineered and manufactured aircraft floats for more than 55 years. They have also provided professional services in aircraft modification, maintenance, avionics, interiors, and other float services. Recently, Wipaire Inc. installed LTI’s Universal Laser Sensors (ULS) in amphibious planes as part of a safety solution. 

A Lengthy Process Done Right 

Clint Clouatre, vice president of marketing and sales for Wipaire, sums up the mission. He states that Wipaire thinks “the problem of accidents related to out-of-position landing gears can be dramatically reduced with an additional safety measure.” To tackle this goal, the company turns to laser sensor integration. 

Wipaire Marketing Manager Amy Gesch recalls the duration of the project a decade after purchasing LTI’s ULS:  

“As for the length of the project, we started in on this back around 2008. The FAA regulations we’re governed by require extensive testing which can take years, as it did in our case.” Once the testing is complete, a reliably accurate system is born. The company announces the certification of their first “smart” amphibious gear advisory system in 2014. This features LTI’s ULS installed on a Cessna 182 craft’s Wipline 3000 floats. 

With a successful debut in their rearview, Gesch proudly proclaims a plan for Wipaire to release the laser [system] to customers selectively at first, starting in 2015, and then roll it out to almost all of Wipaire’s product line in 2017. First, some technical adjustments come into play, to combat the complex nature of both Wipaire’s objective and amphibious piloting itself. 

An Element of Jeopardy 

Amphibious airplane pilots navigate routes that utilize both solid ground and bodies of water. These distinctly unique points of takeoff and landing often exist within the same trip. This regular variability designates the position of an amphibious craft’s landing-gear, whether up or down, as a critical element to both the financial success and general welfare of any given flight.  

Touching down on a runway with the wheels up, and instead landing on the plane’s pontoons, may not be a life-threatening error; however, one expects considerable damage. In contrast, landing on water with wheels down may prove to be a fatal mistake. This can trigger a pole-vaulting motion that sends planes flipping across water, nose-to-end. It goes without saying that pilots prefer smoothly coasting to a gentle upright stop. These daunting scenarios inspired Wipaire to seek LTI’s ULS due to its upstanding reputation as a measurement and detection sensing device of significant integrity. 

A Solution Arrives

Wipaire’s certified gear advisory system centers on a laser array “eye. This detects whether the aircraft is over water or land. The eye can also be combined with a second-generation gear selector and display. Their integration can further the solution’s activity into a pilot’s habitual processes. When aircrafts have been incorrectly configurated for landing, warnings to check the landing-gear are sent to pilots via audible alerts.

These warnings rely on the surface-readings detected by the ULS laser-solution. A similar functionality is also tied to takeoff, as pilots are reminded to check the landinggear position if not raised within 60 seconds of becoming airborneThese features are especially important to pilots who routinely fly short flights from paved airports to bodies of water. 

Wipaire manufactures its own housing and mounts the ULS on the underside of a plane’s wing, near the midpoint. Their warning system relies on laser-supplied data regarding the delta, or change, of intensity return between land and water. This information feeds into the system to provide proper landing-gear alerts to pilots as needed.

“LTI’s Universal Laser Sensor provides a critical safety feature required for the constantly shifting landing environment for the amphibious airplane pilot,” said Jeff Peltier, the engineering technician and project coordinator at Wipaire. “This sensor reliably delivers actionable equipment information necessary for pilot and aircraft safety.” 

The ULS delivers accurate measurements in a wide variety of applications, offering prowess in measuring levels, proximityand detection, despite being just one single laser unitThe ULS, certified by Wipaire, adds in another layer of safety for the constantly changing environments faced by amphibious airplane pilots, crew, and passengers. LTI is proud to have contributed to this commendable achievement in creating a safer world. 

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