It’s hard to get a better look at a runway incident than having dozens of steerable electro-optical cameras and millimeter-wave radars trained on the impending action. Among other uses of the automated surveillance systems, built by Xsight Systems, investigators could be eyewitnesses in real-time or after the fact what happens when a landing goes awry.
That scenario unfolded at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport in July 2013 when a Beechcraft Queen Air without its nose wheel locked in place landed on a runway equipped with Xsight’s automated foreign object debris (FOD) detection system. As the video reveals, there was no fire, damage was fairly benign, and passengers and crew of 4X-DZY quickly and harmlessly escaped without a scratch as emergency services looked on.
The Xsight sensor packages (dark box in the foreground to the left of the runway edge light) are used in Tel Aviv on the main runway as part of the automated FOD detection system (FODetect) that alerts airport authorities to debris on the surface, but the capture of the runway incident highlights a growing list of value-added applications that Xsight and airports are discovering.
FOD became a household name after the tragic crash of Air France Concorde on departure from Charles de Gaulle 15 years ago this summer in a chain of events set off by a piece of metal on the runway.
In addition to scouring a runway approximately every 60 sec. for FOD (FODetect) compared to several times a day by ground crews, new applications include measuring snow depth, runway temperature and contamination (SnowWize), and detecting birds and remotely harassing out of the area with a blast from co-packaged speakers (BirdWize). Last but not least, there is ViewWize, an application that turns the system into a video monitoring asset for situations like the Queen Air prang.
Several of the applications are already operational and some are to come. Paris’ Charles de Gaulle is using a FOD-spotting system, Boston’s Logan International is operating FODetect on Runway 9/7, as are Ben Gurion and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International. Seattle-Tacoma will go live later this year with a FODetect system that also includes BirdWize.
Arik Fux, Boston office leader for Xsight, says the system costs about $5-6 million to install per runway, which can be covered by Airport Improvement Program and passenger facility charges in the U.S. Cost-benefits can come in some interesting ways. Fux says Tel Aviv used to close an active runway based on pilot reports on birds strikes after every strike. But today, he says if they don’t get an alert from the system about bird remains on the runway, they will continue to keep the runway open.