Radar system now to check runways for dangerous debris

August 5th, 2011 - 3:46 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 5 (IANS) Scientists are developing a new radar system that can possibly prevent a repeat of the Concorde crash of Paris that killed 113 people July 25, 2000, when a metal piece lying on its runway led to an explosion.

A tyre of the Air France jet burst, propelling chunks of rubber into the fuel tank. The tyre was ripped by a strip of metal that had fallen on the runway from a previously departing plane.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institutes Germany are developing the system with the University of Siegen, PMD Technologies GmbH and Wilhelm Winter GmbH in a project dubbed LaotSe - short for “Airport runway monitoring through multimodal networked sensor systems”.

This latest radar system is weather-proof and will monitor runways continuously for debris. It will warn of any dangers, according to a Fraunhofer Institutes’ statement.

“Devices installed all along the runway continuously scan the surface. They can detect even the smallest of items, such as screws, but the system will only issue a warning if an object remains on the runway for a longer period of time. A windblown plastic bag or a bird resting briefly will not set off the alarm,” said Helmut Essen, who heads the Millimeter-Wave Radar and High Frequency Sensors department at the Fraunhofer.

During take-off and landing, aircraft suffer significant stresses, their parts may become disetangled, exposing runway users to grave risks, as happened in Concorde’s case.

Until now, airport staff have monitored runways by driving up and down the length at six-hour intervals, looking for pieces of debris.

This kind of work is both time-consuming and error-prone, especially in foggy weather, with reduced visibility.

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