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"FOD: World's first automated runway debris detection system goes live"
Monday, December 11, 2006
World's first automated runway debris detection system goes live
YVR Press Release
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has become the first airport in the
world to install and operate the Tarsier runway debris detection radar
system. The system provides 24-hour automated capability to detect
potentially dangerous runway debris in all weather conditions.
Runway debris, known in the airport industry as Foreign Object Debris or
FOD, as small and seemingly innocuous as a broken wheel from a suitcase, a
bolt or a discarded plastic bag can cause potentially serious damage to an
aircraft. Each year, loose objects such as these on airport runways,
taxiways and aprons cost the global aviation industry an estimated
$4-billion US. Tarsier, developed by U.K.-based QinetiQ, has been proven to
detect and locate small objects to within three metres anywhere on the
"We are proud to be the first airport in the world to utilize a high-tech
solution for runway debris detection," said Brett Patterson, Director,
Operations Safety and Planning, Vancouver International Airport Authority.
"QinetiQ's innovative Tarsier system provides around-the-clock runway
monitoring. This is an unprecedented step forward in keeping our runways
clear of FOD at all times, and speaks of our commitment to safety."
The Tarsier system was developed by QinetiQ following enquiries from
airports, including YVR and the British Airports Authority, in the wake of
the Paris Concorde crash. The system was trialed at YVR for a week in June
2004, during which potentially dangerous objects were detected and retrieved
from the runway in less than five minutes. In 2005, Vancouver International
Airport Authority was the first in the world to purchase the system, which
went into full operation in late 2006.
Hal Kruth, Group Managing Director of QinetiQ's Security and Dual Use
Sector, said: "I am delighted that Vancouver's Tarsier system has now gone
live. This marks the most significant milestone in the development of both
the system and QinetiQ's airport business to date. More importantly, it
provides Vancouver with a valuable new safety tool that will help guard
against the dangers and costs associated with runway debris."
The industry standard for FOD prevention is manual runway checks between
aircraft take-offs and landings, which is difficult in bad weather and at
night. Tarsier is the first commercially available technological solution to
the problem of FOD on runways, and enhances current measures used at YVR,
including staff education, an annual FOD Walk to collect debris,
strategically placed FOD garbage barrels at locations where loose objects
are most likely to be discovered, and regular sweeping of the runways and
taxiways for anything that might harm an aircraft.
Four Tarsier radar units are installed at YVR to provide continuous coverage
of the north and south parallel runways, each of which is approximately
three kilometres in length. The four units are mounted on towers that vary
in height from three to seven metres, and are set back 150 metres from the
runway centreline for maximum coverage. A display unit, providing the
Airport Authority's Operations team with an all-weather, around-the-clock
runway picture, is installed in YVR's Operations Centre. The display unit
provides Airport Operations staff with coordinates of reported FOD.
Coordinates are entered into a vehicle GPS navigation system, allowing
Airport Operations staff to go directly to the location and retrieve the
object in a matter of minutes.
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