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Tarsier runway debris detection system in first commercial trail

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October 15, 2007

Qinetiq Tarsier tower

Qinetiq Tarsier tower

October 15, 2007 A 24-hour debris detection system that continuously scans airport runways and raises the alarm when foreign objects are detected is undergoing its first commercial trial in the United States. QinetiQ’s Tarsier system is undergoing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tests at TF Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Checking for runway debris is currently performed manually with visual inspections several times a day. The fully automated Tarsier Foreign Object Debris (FOD) technology facilitates the collection and recording of all debris, reducing the danger to personnel and the cost of repairing aircraft damage.

The system is currently being tested and evaluated at TF Green Airport on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by the University of Illinois Centre of Excellence in Airport Technology (CEAT) under the direction of Professor Edwin Herricks.

“FOD has been identified as a major problem for the aerospace industry with cost estimates ranging up to $4 billion per year globally,” said Professor Edwin Herricks, director of the CEAT. “The performance evaluation programme at TF Green Airport began in June and will continue until next spring. Upon completion it is expected that the FAA will publish an Advisory Circular that will assist airports in safety management activities related to FOD.”

Housed in towers that resemble small lighthouse beacons, the two radar units are in place at TF Green Airport’s North-South runway for the six-month long performance assessment that will test the FOD system in a variety of weather and lighting conditions, including wind, rain, snow and darkness. These units beam both visual and radar imagery display into the airport’s operations centre provides and upon detection of FOD, an alarm sounds and the visual inspection and recovery follows in a matter of minutes.

The FAA has initiated a program to evaluate the performance of FOD detection systems at commercial airports. Studies are being led by the FAA's William A. Hughes Technical Centre in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Airport Safety Management Programme in partnership with the University of Illinois, Centre of Excellence in Airport Technology.

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About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007.   All articles by Noel McKeegan
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