Radar system designed to detect runway debris

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 October 2004




(2004), "Radar system designed to detect runway debris", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 76 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/aeat.2004.12776eab.010



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Radar system designed to detect runway debris

Radar system designed to detect runway debris

Keywords: Airports, Safety, Radar

Europe's two largest airport operators are conducting trials in a new radar system designed to detect runway debris. British Airports Authority (BAA) and Aéroports de Paris (ADP) are runing operational trials of QinetiQ's Tarsier radar system at Southampton and Paris Charles de Gaulle airports, respectively. A further trial in North America is planned for later in the year and the US Federal Aviation Administration will also evaluate the system.

QinetiQ's Tarsier has reportedly been proven to detect and locate small objects on an airport runway to an accuracy of 3 m and at a distance of up to 2 km. The system is based on high-resolution millimetre wave radar and can operate in all weather conditions and also at night. Tarsier has the added benefit of further applications, including surface movement tracking, runway intrusion, perimeter security and bird detection.

The trials at Southampton and Paris will follow a series of demonstrations for key customers at Boscombe Down airfield, which is operated by QinetiQ on behalf of the UKs Ministry of Defence. Tim Floyd, QinetiQ's Tarsier Sales Manager, welcomed the forthcoming series of trials, saying: “We are delighted in the interest being shown by both BAA and ADP. I am confident that Tarsier provides airport operators with the best solution to the very real dangers of runway debris. QinetiQ has been able to achieve a level of performance never seen before and we look forward to demonstrating this during the trials”.

The danger and damage caused by foreign objects and debris (FOD) on runways can prove fatal with the Concorde crash in France in 2000 being blamed on a piece of debris. In addition to the safety issue, the cost of FOD damage to the aviation industry is huge with National Aerospace FOD Prevention, Inc. (NAFPI) calculating an annual industry bill in the region of $4 billion.

Checking for FOD is currently performed manually, which is time-consuming, expensive and open to human error. It can take as long as 45 min to check a runway in between the aircraft movements and this is particularly difficult in bad weather. This can result in runway closures, delays in both arrival and departure slots and most importantly, passenger and staff safety can be at risk.

Tarsier addresses these challenges by integrating the state-of-the-art, high precision radar with an advanced real time digital signal processor. The system provides 360°, long range, real time detection capability that can detect and track a wide variety of static and moving targets. It can also be made interoperable with existing airport surveillance systems.

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