Vancouver leads fight on FOD

Vancouver International Airport has become the first airport in the world to install and operate the Tarsier runway debris detection radar system.


Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has become the first airport in the world to install and operate the Tarsier runway debris detection radar system.



The system is said to provide 24-hour automated capability to detect potentially dangerous runway debris in all weather conditions.



Runway debris (Foreign Object Debris or FOD) as small as a broken wheel from a suitcase, a bolt or a discarded plastic bag can cause potentially serious damage to an aircraft. Each year, loose objects such as these on airport runways, taxiways and aprons cost the global aviation industry an estimated $4bn. Tarsier, developed by UK-based Qinetiq, has been proven to detect and locate small objects to within three metres anywhere on the runway.



The Tarsier system was developed by Qinetiq following enquiries from airports, including YVR and the British Airports Authority, in the wake of the Paris Concorde crash. The system was trialled at YVR for a week in June 2004, during which potentially dangerous objects were detected and retrieved from the runway in less than five minutes. In 2005, Vancouver International Airport Authority was the first in the world to purchase the system, which went into full operation in late 2006.



Four Tarsier radar units are installed at YVR to provide continuous coverage of the north and south parallel runways, each of which is approximately three kilometres in length. The four units are mounted on towers that vary in height from three to seven metres, and are set back 150 metres from the runway centreline for maximum coverage.


A display unit, providing the Airport Authority’s Operations team with an all-weather, around-the-clock runway picture, is installed in YVR’s Operations Centre. The display unit provides Airport Operations staff with coordinates of reported FOD. Coordinates are entered into a vehicle GPS navigation system, allowing airport operations staff to go directly to the location and retrieve the object in a matter of minutes.