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Heathrow goes live with Europe’s first runway debris detection system


QinetiQ’s Tarsier system operational at Heathrow

Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport has invested in a state of the art radar system to further improve safety by continuously sweeping its runways for foreign objects and debris (FOD).

Supplied by QinetiQ, the Tarsier system is already being used to detect FOD on the southern runway at Heathrow following a successful operational trial. Two radars scan the 3,658 metre runway area 24 hours a day, locating objects that could be drawn into engines or damage aircraft systems.

The contract also includes a further enhancement of the Tarsier system through the use of high specification day/night cameras that will allow the remote visual confirmation of detected debris.

“Safety is our top priority” commented Colin Wood, Airside Operations Director, Heathrow. "Tarsier is a proven technological solution to the problem of FOD and will assist our operations team in carrying out regular visual runway inspections by acting as an additional pair of eyes.”

He added: “Tarsier also has the additional benefit of enabling Heathrow to deliver an improved service to the 68 million passengers who use the airport each year, by minimising delays caused by FOD.”

The permanent installation of Tarsier at Heathrow is part of BAA’s drive to maximise use of existing runways and drive down delays. Heathrow Airport is full with its runways operating at 99 per cent of capacity and any interruption to the use of its runways can result in significant delays to passengers. Tarsier will help to improve airport operations by ensuring FOD is detected and removed more quickly and more efficiently.

Phil McLachlan, Managing Director of QinetiQ Airport Technologies said: “We are delighted that Tarsier is playing an important role in maximising capacity and easing congestion at Heathrow that handles close to half a million aircraft movements each year. It is an added bonus for us that technology developed in the UK is now fully operational at the country’s flagship airport.”


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