Heathrow adds cameras to existing Tarsier system

QinetiQ press release

Heathrow has this week gone live with a sophisticated debris detection system fitted with day/night cameras that can detect an object the size of a suitcase wheel anywhere on the runways of the world’s busiest international airport.

The installation of day/night cameras enhanced with infra red technology is an innovation to the existing Tarsier system, supplied by UK based technology company QinetiQ. The system works using radars which scan the airport’s runways 24 hours a day for material which could be drawn into engines or damage aircraft systems. Specialised cameras with night vision technology are fitted to each radar allowing the airport’s airfield safety unit to view detected debris immediately and react accordingly. The infra red technology incorporated into the system ensures the cameras can work in low light conditions.

This upgrade coincides with the Tarsier system being installed on Heathrow’s northern runway, having successfully been in use on the southern runway since June 2008.

Colin Wood, Director of Airside Operations said:
“The safety and security of Heathrow’s runways are our priority and we are always looking for innovative technology to build on the robust systems already in place. This sophisticated upgrade to the Tarsier system is an extra aid for Heathrow’s Airside Operations Safety Unit who keep the airport’s busy runways safe. The addition of day/night cameras will mean that the team can instantly identify debris, even something as small as a suitcase wheel, and respond efficiently, minimising any disruption. It is a welcome and valuable addition to Heathrow’s airside safety practices.“

The Tarsier FOD radar system can detect small objects to within three metres anywhere on the runway and can detect a range of materials including: metal, plastic, glass, wood, fibreglass and even organic matter. A display unit installed in Heathrow’s airside operations unit provides the airport runway inspection team with a round-the-clock runway picture allowing them to locate and now see the FOD on the tarmac and retrieve the object in a matter of minutes.

Phil McLachlan, Managing Director QinetiQ Airport Technologies commented:
“We are delighted that the UK’s flagship airport has embraced this new technology from QinetiQ. As an airport operating at the very highest safety standard, we are confident that the Tarsier thermal camera will help keep Heathrow at the forefront of airport safety”

Heathrow’s two runways are full 99% of the time and the airside operations team have been leading the airport community on FOD awareness to minimise delays related to loose objects on the airfield. The addition of cameras maximises the safety and efficiency of the existing Tarsier system and is a sophisticated aid to the regular human inspections the AOSU team carry out several times daily.

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