Paris Concorde crash spurs development of Qinetiq's runway debris detection radar

French airport operator Aeroports de Paris and its UK counterpart BAA are preparing to conduct the first civil airport trials with a new foreign-object detection (FOD) system based on millimetre-wave radar.

BAA will host a demonstration and series of tests of the Tarsier system at Southampton airport in the UK, around the first half of March.

This demonstration will be followed by a similar event, provisionally scheduled for Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, although Paris Orly could be used instead.

French and UK interest in the system, developed by UK research group Qinetiq, has been driven by the fatal Air France Concorde accident at Charles de Gaulle in July 2000, which occurred after a stray piece of metal on the runway burst an aircraft tyre during take-off (Flight International, 3-9 February).

"It was decided that millimetre-wave radar was the best solution," says Qinetiq Tarsier sales manager Tim Floyd, who describes the BAA and Aeroports de Paris tests as a "proof of principle".

He says that the task of checking runways for foreign objects is expensive and time-consuming - particularly in poor weather - and adds to congestion problems at busy airports.

A typical installation for a 4,000m (13,100ft) runway would probably involve two radars about one-third of the way in from either runway end.

Tarsier, which can scan up to 60 times a minute, operates at a frequency of around 94GHz and has the resolution to detect objects as small as a 50mm (2in) bolt on the runway at a range of 1,600m.

Floyd says information from the radar would be sent directly to the airport operations control centre, and possibly the control tower.

Source: Flight International