Photo/radar sensors detect debris on airport runways

There’s an article at Gizmag today describing a radar/camera based system, and it’s not Tarsier or FODetect. The original article can be seen at the Fraunhofer web site.  One part of the article caught my attention:

While similar radar systems have been developed, these are only capable of detecting metal objects, and they often give rise to false alarms. What is more, because they are mounted high up on masts they can easily be damaged in the event of an airplane accident.

This statement is so factually incorrect that it’s a little worrying (I hope they didn’t develop their system based on these assumptions!).

  • The system on the market most similar to the Fraunhofer system is Tarsier. And anyone who has used Tarsier (or can read a web site, or has a basic understanding of high-frequency radar) knows that it detects plastic, paper, grass, metal, birds, wood etc.
  • If a system on a mast/tower is susceptible to damage from aircraft, then a system on the ground is susceptible to damage from aircraft, and every ground vehicle used on the airfield, not to mention the local wildlife. But, it will also lose line-of-site due to signs, ground vehicles, snow banks etc. If the system is mounted on the ground it will not have line-of-sight to the far side of the runway (due to the runway crown), so it would require twice the number of sensors when compared to a tower based system. When they do their site design they will then realise that there are places where their sensors cannot be placed due to the density of taxiways, so they will have large gaps in their coverage.

From the article it appears that they are currently 8-9 years behind the competition, and their system does not appear to offer any advantage (actually, it appears to have a few disadvantages) compared to the radar/camera based systems already available.

My suggestions:

  • Perform some market research prior to developing a new system.
  • Perform some basic fact checking before describing what the competition is capable of.

If my tone in this article appears a little “off” then I apologise. I like competition and innovation, what I don’t like is misleading articles/marketing material. Customers are not stupid, if you try to mislead them about the capability of a competitor they will find out for themselves, and if they don’t, I can guarantee you that I will let them know on this blog.

If you are interested in a radar/camera system that works right now, then please check out FODetect or Tarsier.

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