New radar system makes runways safer

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 June 2004




(2004), "New radar system makes runways safer", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 76 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

New radar system makes runways safer

New radar system makes runways safer

Keywords: Radars, Runway, Safety

Two leading technology firms have developed a “blind-spot” free radar which reportedly can detect debris on all parts of airport runways.

The Defence Diversification Agency (DDA), an arm of the UK's Ministry of Defence that marries technology needs of industry with UK defence research, has brought together one of Europe's leading technology experts, QinetiQ, and radar designers Navtech Electronics Ltd to produce the radar that will enhance airport safety.

Kim Howat, Technology Diversification Manager (TDM) at the DDA South West commented: “The DDA introduced Navtech to the idea of working with QinetiQ, and brokered the initial meeting that identified areas of common interest. From then on the DDA has assisted by monitoring and encouraging collaboration.”

There are potentially disastrous consequences if debris is not collected from a runway: an official French report that claimed that runway debris was to blame for the doomed Concorde flight that crashed killing 113 passengers in January 2002 highlighted the need for more effective methods of detecting runway debris. The report claimed that the supersonic jet's tyre was punctured during take-off by a stray piece of metal left on the runway by another aircraft.

The engine damage to aircraft caused by runway debris costs the RAF £25 million annually. To inspect an airport runway properly is a very time-consuming and costly job.

A spokesman for QinetiQ said: “The Navtech radar has been designed to meet realistic commercial opportunities making it a cost- effective option for a number of applications. The capability of the radar is not only restricted to airports, other companies might have a security problem that a radar can solve.”

The Navtech radar uses high-resolution millimetre wave radar to detect obstacles even in adverse weather conditions. It is also stated that the system can be used during poor visibility or at night when manual inspections are more difficult. It also reduces the scope for human error.

Air travel is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, resulting in demands for runway capacity increasing and reductions in gate to gate time. As a result, airports are getting busier, handling as many as 600 movements per runway, per day with some intervals as low as 60 s. It is the airport operator's responsibility to maintain runways to the highest standard of safety possible with some airports checking runways for foreign objects and debris once per hour.

QinetiQ, in partnership with Flight Refuelling, sold the first new surveillance system to East Midlands Airport. The system will use four radar heads to cover the entire airport movement area. The compact, lightweight technology radar system can be rapidly deployed. It also has a number of possible uses within the MOD as an airfield security and helicopter landing aid.

Kim explains the DDA's remit to focus UK companies on what technology transfer can do for them: “Many businesses are struggling to access appropriate technology solutions to fit their strategies and support their innovative ideas. The range of defence technologies available to UK businesses is second to none throughout Europe.”

“Yet many companies either don't realise defence technology is accessible to them or, wouldn't consider that their technology needs could be addressed by defence-based experts. We're active in the South West to try to ensure that local businesses can benefit from the UK's investment in developing such world-class knowledge and expertise.”

The DDA is the technology transfer arm of the MOD, set up in 1999 in recognition that the UK Defence has an extensive body of technology and knowledge that could be shared with UK businesses to help them innovate and grow. The DDA's network of TDMs throughout the country has facilitated access for UK companies to world leading science and technology expertise.

Details available from: QinetiQ. Tel: +44 (0)8700 100 942.

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