Saturday 24 March 2018

Students shocked to find errors on air charts used by coast guard teams

Students Robert Torley, Scott Taaffe and Josh Hand have created a system to help helicopter navigation
Students Robert Torley, Scott Taaffe and Josh Hand have created a system to help helicopter navigation
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A group of students have claimed that they have discovered several mistakes in the aeronautical charts used by coast guard services in Ireland - as part of their scientific research for the BT Young Scientist Exhibition.

Some of the problems detected with the currently utilised aeronautical charts include lighthouses in the wrong locations, obscured symbols and missing spot heights.

Even such 'landmark' spots as Skellig Michael off Co Kerry and Fastnet Rock off Co Cork are inaccurately depicted, the shocked students claim.

Less than a week after the tragedy of the coast guard helicopter Rescue 116 off the coast of Mayo, student Josh Hand (14) came to his teacher with an idea for the Young Scientist Exhibition.

Together with Robert Torley and Scott Taaffe, all second-year students at Pobalscoil Neasain in Baldoyle, north county Dublin, Josh developed the EchoCopter.

The device is a sophisticated prototype of a model helicopter incorporating a built-in Ultrasonic Sensor to alert cabin crew of nearby objects in the flight path of an aircraft in real time rather than relying on pre-programmed guides.

It would work independently of the built-in EGPWS system already in place in a helicopter.

Under the guidance of teacher Gemma Buicke, they carried out research - including an examination of the aeronautical charts - and were shocked at their findings.

"I don't know if these problems are known or not," explained Gemma, adding that they hope to talk to the Irish Coast Guard service about their project during the course of the exhibition at the RDS in Dublin.


They programmed the circuit board using a Scratch 2.0, a visual programming language and used a series of events, control and action blocks to programme the circuit.

"It was a nice little project and the programme itself is quite complicated but they're well able," said Gemma, adding that Josh had completed a two-week coding programme last summer that had put them on the right track.

The students are exhibiting at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition which runs from today until Saturday.

More than 50,000 members of the public are expected to attend and President Michael D Higgins will open the event.

Irish Independent

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