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Thu, Oct 11, 2007

QinetiQ Runway Debris Detection System Deployed At TF Green Airport

Tarsier To Be Evaluated For FAA

Rhode Island's TF Green Airport (KPVD) is the first commercial airport in the United States to install and operate the latest Tarsier Foreign Object Debris (FOD) detection technology. The Tarsier system was developed by international defense and security company QinetiQ, and is now being tested and evaluated at TF Green Airport on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by the University of Illinois Center of Excellence in Airport Technology (CEAT,) under the direction of Professor Edwin Herricks.

Checking for runway debris is currently performed manually, with visual inspections several times a day. The new, fully automated system provides continuous scanning of the runway area and alerts airport operations specialists about foreign objects that are detected. Operations specialists then recover and keep a record of all debris that is recovered.

"We are honored that TF Green is the test-site for such a monumental technology for the aviation industry," said Mark Brewer, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC). "Tools such as QinetiQ’s FOD system improve the way we operate and help improve the safety conditions of air travel."

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 Center in Atlantic City, NJ, Airport Safety Management Program in partnership with the University of Illinois, Center of Excellence in Airport Technology.

"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 program 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."

Two Tarsier radar units are in place along Runway 16/34 at TF Green for the six-month long performance assessment, which will test the FOD system in a variety of weather and lighting conditions, including wind, rain, snow and darkness. These units are housed in towers that resemble small lighthouse beacons, as seen in the photograph above.

A display unit in the airport’s operations center provides a visual image of the runway and radar imagery. Upon detection of FOD, an alarm sounds and the TF Green Operations Team proceeds to the area in question and performs a visual inspection and recovery in a matter of minutes.

QinetiQ’s Tarsier system is presently in use at Vancouver International Airport and is being installed at Dubai International Airport.

"Runway debris is an important safety, cost and efficiency issue facing every major airport," said Phil McLachlan, managing director of QinetiQ Airport Technologies. "The FAA evaluation at TF Green is hugely important to us as not only is it our first installation in the US, but also a chance to demonstrate to the FAA that fully automated runway FOD inspections are now possible."

FMI: www.qinetiq.com, www.pvdairport.com/

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