Helicopter Avalanche Control

The easiest way to break up heavy snow buildup

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Helicopter Avalanche Control

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The easiest way to break up heavy snow buildup



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The Value of Snowy Hills via Avalanche Control

During the winter months, mountainous regions tend to attract tourists from all over the world. Not only do these people want to be surrounded by beautiful, snow-covered scenery, but they also come for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. While this can be a great thing for the area’s economy, it can also increase the likelihood of putting people in danger after heavy snowfalls.

In order to prevent losing lives due to avalanches, explosives are used to break up heavy snow buildup. This technique creates several smaller, but controlled avalanches so that larger ones cannot occur. Helicopters are employed to drop explosives in a safe and effective manner.


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Techniques behind avalanche control

Helicopter Avalanche Control Helicopter Avalanche Control

Typically, the areas in which avalanches are most likely to occur are in remote, and data-poor environments. This makes determining where to drop the explosives even more difficult. However, with today’s technology advancements, helicopters are equipped with laser (LIDAR)-scanning systems that are able to map snow depth in high resolutions. 

Employing helicopters for avalanche control reduce worker exposure to explosives and reduce costs that are related to usual avalanche control. By targeting high-risk areas, avalanches decrease in risk and frequency.

Explosives for Avalanche Control

Commonly Used Explosives

The explosives that are used for avalanche control can be launched by hand from the helicopter. This is why it is important to make sure that the chemical compounds being used are handled in a safe and cautious manner to avoid accidents. The following are some of the most popular explosives used:

  • Trinitrotoluene (TNT)
  • Pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN)
  • Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX)
  • Tetrytol
  • Ammonium nitrate
  • Nitroglycerin

Depending on the location, size, terrain, and weather conditions, the annual quantity of explosives ranges. The department of transportation partners with local ski resorts and property owners to ensure the safety of not only the avalanche control crew but also the safety of locals and tourists.

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Controls Towers for Avalanche Control

With the development of new technologies, avalanche control has never been safer and easier! Avalanche control towers are being installed not only in the Swiss Alps, but they are also being employed in the mountainous regions of the United States. 

These towers are built to automatically trigger small, controlled avalanches. A coded command is sent from the control center to the control system of the deployment box. Once the explosive is dropped, it is ignited by two igniters and the explosion is set off after a delay. The towers offer the greatest degree of success with the smallest residual risk. 

The towers use explosives with high detonation speeds. These produce N-shaped waves of pressure that not improve the distance of the explosion, but also the most effective solution for preventing avalanches. Blasting above the snow with larger charges offers a wider range from the detonation point. Towers can be installed in higher locations because there are no critical or moving parts that can be exposed and worn down by weather. They also take up relatively no space at 1 square meter. The solar-powered supply or wind generator allows the towers to avoid using vulnerable supply lines to keep them operational. 

Avalanche control towers are installed by helicopters in remote areas that are high-risk for dense snowfall. Towers not only save lives from snow build-up, but they also keep the staff from directly handling dangerous explosives. Because of the design of the towers, the installation and upkeep of these towers is fairly simple. The mobility of the deployment boxes means that helicopters can dismantle and reload the towers without hassle within hours.

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