Singapore-based advanced technology company Stratech Systems is reporting successful tests of an airport runway debris monitoring system that it developed and which it plans to market globally.

The company has been developing its iFerret runway surveillance and foreign-object and debris (FOD) detection system for some time and says it recently completed a successful pilot trial at Singapore's Changi airport. The system was jointly developed and funded by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the Prime Minister's Office of Singapore.

Stratech says the 15-month pilot showed iFerret was able to "reliably detect foreign objects left on the runway surface down to 2cm [0.8in] in size from 300m [980ft] away, under clear weather conditions".

It adds that "the system also delivered impressive results under rainy conditions, being able to detect FOD as small as 4cm in size under 16mm/h of rainfall".

"Objects of various shapes, colours, materials and sizes - such as nuts, bolts, golf balls and paper cubes - were used in the trial, to test the system's ability to detect and verify the presence of FOD," says the company, which claims that the system "proved highly reliable under day and night conditions".

"With the system in place, airport personnel can monitor the presence of FOD in real time under all kinds of weather and environmental conditions. Air traffic and ground operations control staff can visually assess the FOD identified on a remote screen display without having to physically visit the runway. They can then take immediate action to clear the FOD to ensure the safety and maintain the efficiency of airport operations."

Stratech executive chairman David Chew says iFerret is the first of its kind to use an "intelligent vision-based system that detects, analyses and identifies FOD in real-time".

Chew says Stratech is now seeking to market the system globally and is carrying out trials at unspecified airports around the world. He says the system is a "fusion of artificial intelligence and computer vision". It uses image and video capturing devices and intelligent software to allow the computers to "see, recognise, analyse and understand what is seen".

He believes there is a large potential market for FOD detection systems at airports and iFerret has one main competitor, the radar-based Tarsier, which was developed by UK research group Qinetiq. That system is already being used at Vancouver airport in Canada and is being installed at Dubai airport in the UAE.

Source: Flight International