Vancouver International adds cameras to existing Tarsier system

QinetiQ press release

Richmond, B.C. (July 29, 2009): Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is the first commercial airport in the world to install a day and night camera to its existing Tarsier Foreign Object Debris (FOD) radar detection system. The new camera will upgrade YVR’s 24-hour automated runway debris detection system in all weather conditions by providing visual confirmation of any potentially dangerous objects on the runway.

Tarsier’s high-resolution radar and advanced day and night camera work in tandem to provide continuous runway monitoring and safety. The camera’s innovative illuminator helps produce FOD images in all light levels, turning night into day and giving operators greater confidence and certainty.

“The camera allows us to determine quickly whether the FOD is a two inch worm that poses no threat, or a broken zipper from a suitcase that does,” said Brett Patterson, Director, Airside Operations, Vancouver Airport Authority. “Tarsier’s innovative system is an integral part of our safety management program that enables us to monitor the runway continuously with no disruption to runway operations.”

FOD as small and seemingly innocuous as a bolt, discarded plastic bag or clamshell dropped by a bird on the runway can cause serious damage to aircraft and poses a potential safety risk. Each year, loose objects on airport runways, taxiways and aprons cost the global aviation industry an estimated US $12-billion.

Tarsier’s networked high-frequency, high-resolution radars sweep the runway around the clock.

When FOD is detected, an alarm is triggered in YVR’s Operations Centre where the user display highlights the object’s location. The camera zooms in, sending a live image for visual confirmation and the object’s GPS coordinates are provided, enabling accurate location and retrieval of the object in a matter of minutes.

“We have provided YVR with a valuable safety tool that helps guard against the dangers and costs associated with runway debris,” said Dr. Dominic Walker, Product Development Director, QinetiQ.” The benefits are clear and we’re thrilled to be helping airports such as Vancouver deliver the highest levels of passenger safety and experience.”

Developed by U.K.-based QinetiQ and trialed at YVR for one week in June 2004, the Tarsier system detected potentially dangerous objects that were retrieved from the runway in less than five minutes. In 2005, Vancouver Airport Authority was the first airport operator in the world to purchase the system, which went into full operation at YVR in late 2006. The recent addition of the day and night camera to the radar system has increased the efficiency of debris retrieval and further reduced runway closures and operational disruptions.

The four Tarsier radar and camera units installed at YVR 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 centre of the runway for maximum coverage. The Tarsier units are able to detect a range of materials, including metal, plastic, glass, wood and fibreglass anywhere on YVR’s runways.

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