back to article What's AI good for? Industrial or consumer tech? Meh. Airliners? AHA, says and Canadian airliner manufacturer Bombardier want you – yes, you – to come up with ideas for using artificial intelligence to stop ice building up on aeroplane wings. In-flight icing is a problem for airliners. At certain combinations of height, pressure and humidity, ice tends to form on the wings of aeroplanes. If …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I read the "digital catapult" stuff correctly

    Then they don't want help with HOW to deal with ice, they only want help on video processing to IDENTIFY ice types. Rather than an aeronautical or engineering problem, it appears to be primarily a video processing task, and then they'll use existing technology to deal with it.

    I suspect the identification challenge owes a lot to the fact that wings are invariably painted in a solid colour, usually white or silver, and a big part of a reliable video solution would actually be to apply a micro-pattern, rather than trying to distinguish different types of white ice on a featureless white surface under very strong sunlight.

  2. steelpillow Silver badge


    Sod the video. Blast the wing with ultrasonics and analyse the echo. Any ice build-up will change the wing's signature. There's a place down in Wotton-under-Edge who make that kind of gear to test for micro-cracking in the structure. And there are several outfits who do similar stuff to monitor helicopters in flight. I smell an attempt to avoid paying the people who know how to do the job properly. Or is bone ignorance more likely?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small point

    Be aware the temperature at the turbine blades, being post combustion, is well north of 1000C. Ice formation there is unlikely. Perhaps you meant fan blades?

    1. Bronek Kozicki

      Re: Small point

      Ice can form inside the fuel tanks and accumulate at the fuel intake part of the engine, as for example happened to a certain 777 in 2008

      Although I agree fan blades sounds more likely, in the context :)

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Small point

        "Ice can form inside the fuel tanks"

        Generally as a result of insufficient quality control. Although in that particular case it built up as slush at low temperatures and ended up dumped onto the heat exchanger plate when there was a fuel demand during the landing process.

        Running the engines up at the top of the descent might have avoided that being problematic(*), as would changes to tankage practices (fuel is constantly being moved about between tanks to alter trim and CG) to avoid slush buildups occuring.

        (*) The problem wasn't that the engines became uncharacteristically slow to spool up/almost flamed out so much as the aircraft was close to the ground when it happened, with no safety margin for recovery.

  4. SVV

    AI ice prevention system

    It will check the weather conditions through some kind of sensor, and analyse the forecast for the route to be flown. If it is not going to be warm and sunny for the entire journey, the system simply prevents the plane from taking off.

    Now, how do I claim my £100,000?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. theblackhand

      Re: AI ice prevention system

      "the system simply prevents the plane from taking off."

      Ahh...this already exists - it's called RyanAir....

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Salt. If ice forms get one of the cabin crew to nip out and put some salt down, it works on my driveway so I don't see a problem with this.

  6. onefang

    My first thought was to run Google AI stuff in the wings, after all it's used to running things in the clouds. The heat generated melts the ice, and Google pays for it.

    Then I thought, if you want to get rid of Internal Combustion Engines on planes, you don't need AI, you need electric engines, and a lot of batteries, or solar panels.

    Perhaps they mean to get rid of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from planes? Probably fairly easy outside USA, but might have some troubles doing that in USA.

    I didn't know that Methamphetamine (AKA ice) was a problem for pilots, not sure AI can help much there.

    Shirely it's not too hard to ban the playing of Vanilla Ice on planes?

    I was gonna use for more inspiration, but I'd be here all week. They already owe me £200,000, I don't need much more this year.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I assume that the AI for in flight de-icing will be deployed in the cloud

  8. Fursty Ferret

    Err, no - current guidance is that when in icing conditions, you turn on the anti-icing systems. For engines that’s visible moisture and total air temperature less than 10C on an Airbus; wing anti icing when you can see ice on the ice detector or windscreen.

    787 has automatic deicing so it’s hardly a new thing. Does drink fuel though on the Airbus as it taps bleed air from the engines.

    The idea of waiting for a reasonable amount to build up went out 10 years ago, even on planes with pneumatic boots instead of heated leading edges.

  9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


    Do I need to say more? Oh, ok then. Coat the entire plane in a special hydrophobic paint made from specially designed graphene nanotubes. Obviously we'll use Agile DevOps to come up with the final design after a few years of iterations.

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