Automating FOD Detection
An automated system to detect foreign object debris (FOD) on the center runway at Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) puts the busy airport at the leading edge of routine airfield inspection and safety. The system uses high-definition cameras and radar technology to constantly inspect the newly reconstructed Runway 16C-34C for debris that can cause major damage if sucked into an aircraft engine.
SEA is only the second U.S. airport to install the FODetect Solution, from Xsight Systems, and is the first to fully fund the project. Logan International Airport (BOS) in Boston was the first to add the automated system.
Even with staff members diligently inspecting the airport's three runways three times per day, a piece of debris can appear just a few minutes after inspection, notes Robert Kikillus, Airport Operations manager at SEA. "An automated FOD detection system is continuously scanning the runway surface; so as soon as something is detected, we receive a notice and can send someone out (to remove it)," he explains.
Loose aircraft hardware, catering supplies, pieces that have broken off luggage and everyday litter are common examples of FOD found on airfields across the globe.
Kikillus notes that the timing was right to add an automated system at SEA: "FOD detection technology has reached a level of maturity, and we saw the value of including it in the runway reconstruction project."
He considers the integrated nature of FODetect Solution to be a major advantage. Monitors are positioned on runway edge lights, so it just takes a bit of extra wiring to use the existing infrastructure, he explains.
The new FOD system also provides wildlife management benefits, adding to the airport's already robust program, informs Kikillus. In addition to flagging inanimate FOD such as pieces of rock or pavement, the system will also be set up to detect wildlife on the runway and in the surrounding area. "The goal is to combine the data with the two avian radars we already have and get a better picture of the bird activity at the airport," he explains.
A team from SEA spent one day at BOS, learning best practices regarding the automated FOD detection system. "The nice thing about airports is we cooperate with each other in the overall avenue of safety," notes Dave Richardson, manager at SEA's Communication Center.
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