Fuentek's Tech Transfer Blog

Sis-BOOM-bah: NASA Technology Lets Pilots Control the Impact of Sonic Booms

When first introduced in 1976, supersonic commercial air travel promised Superman-like speed to commercial airlines and the flying public. At least, that was the idea. But when the aircraft traveled faster than the speed of sound, they generated thunderous sonic booms that disturbed people on the ground. The sonic booms eventually became so bad, the United States and other countries banned supersonic travel over land.

NASA has now solved this problem, not by eliminating the boom but by giving pilots control over it. And the space agency is offering up its sonic boom solution for licensing for commercial and military applications.

The ingenious researchers at NASA’s Dryden Space Flight Center have developed a real-time, interactive sonic boom display that enables pilots to control the timing and location of sonic booms. The software system can be integrated into any cockpit or flight control room to help pilots place loud booms in specific locations away from populated areas – or prevent them from occurring in the first place.

This technology can be used on current as well as future-generation supersonic aircraft. NASA’s sonic boom display can also improve safety for military pilots, helping them ensure that their plane’s sonic booms remain controlled and undetected on sensitive missions.

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By Danielle McCulloch