Category: Editorial

100th article

This is the 100th article to appear on, so this seems like a good time to let our readers know of some upcoming changes to the site.

We have always put our effort into aggregating and commenting on all the news relevant to the FOD detection industry, and this has proven to be a useful resource for those in the aviation sector who are concerned with FOD. Keeping up-to-date is great, but it’s also nice to have a reference section where people can quickly get answers to some frequently asked questions e.g. where are the current FOD systems deployed? How much can a FOD system reduce risk on a runway? How do the systems compare on features?

Over the next few months I plan on answering some of these questions (and more) by adding dedicated pages to the site, this is of course in addition to keeping the home page up-to-date with all the latest news. Today, I have launched a beta version of the FOD Risk Calculator, originally a downloadable spreadsheet, now an interactive part of the site. It allows anyone to quickly compare FOD systems using parameters such as detection time and probability of detection, or to compare any of the systems against manual FOD checks.

The 2nd page to be added will be an interactive map showing the current deployment of FOD systems (sales only, not trials or demos), along with details of the number of runways covered etc. I’m still working on this page, it should be up and running within the next couple of weeks.


Who visits serves a very niche market, when you combine this with the fact that it is the only independent website that serves this market, you end up with a site that attracts some very unique visitors i.e. potential FOD detection customers. I don’t share the website statistics with anyone, but today I thought I would share some very basic/general data on where our visitors are located.

The pie chart below shows the location of visitors for the last month. So, what can we tell from the data? for one thing the data is skewed by visits from the FOD detection system vendors themselves. This might seem odd, as there are only 4 vendors, but you have to remember that there are also less than 10 customers worldwide, so it’s not actually very surprising. Of the top 5 countries, US, UK, Israel, China and Singapore, all but one (China) are home to a FOD detection vendor. (more…)

How important is detection time?

I received an email recently (an anonymous email!) which questioned the effectiveness of those FOD detection systems which have a detection time greater than the mean time between aircraft movements. The question in the email was this, “Did you neglect the timing requirement [detection time] when you did your system design???[sic]“ The suggestion was that detection time should be the fundamental design consideration when building a FOD detection system. Personally I believe that reducing the risk from FOD should be the key design consideration. The idea that detection time is the key is based on the following argument:

If a system takes 6 minutes to detect an item of FOD, and the next aircraft is due in 4 minutes, then the FOD detection system is completely ineffective at reducing risk.

It’s the sort of argument that people in marketing dream of, not only does it appear to make a lot of sense, but FOD detection time is easy to quantify, and therefore it’s easy to compare across the various systems. Unfortunately, it does not stand up to any form of rigorous analysis. So, let’s take at look at this in more detail, the first thing we need to do is to define the risk from FOD.


The cost of a FOD system – an infographic

FOD cost infographic

Click to view full size

I’ve always liked infographics, they convey complex data clearly and quickly in a way that a report, or a table simply cannot manage.  After watching the recent TED talk by David McCandless I decided to generate a simple infographic that included the cost of a FOD detection system alongside some other aviation costs. I’ve not included actual figures on the graphic as the costs are so variable that it would not be worthwhile.

I plan on generating a new infographic over the next few weeks that will be based on the costs detailed in the Insight report (The economic cost of FOD).

Download the infographic as a PDF.

Found some FOD? There’s an app for that


…well, there isn’t, but I firmly believe there should be.

I’ve just read through the new FAA draft Circular on FOD Management, and it discusses the fact that it’s the responsibility of everyone to report FOD if they come across it. I believe that if you want people to do something, especially if it’s not their main role, you have to:

  • make the function quick and easy to perform, and
  • offer an incentive.

And let’s get one thing straight, asking a contractor who’s working airside to visit an office on the far side of the airfield to locate and complete a FOD reporting form does neither of these, it’s definitely not quick, and there’s no incentive. Actually it’s more likely to get them into trouble with their boss as they’d have to explain why they’d not been doing their job for the last 30 minutes!

The first thing you have to do is to give the person who found the FOD a method of recording the event then and there, because if they plan to leave it until the end of their shift then it’s not going to get done at all, and I’m not talking about a new device for them to carry around all day, because they won’t carry it. You have to take advantage of the fact that it’s very likely that they’re carrying a small recording device with them anyway, and yes, if you haven’t already guessed from the mock poster above, I’m talking about a smartphone.

There are 3 reasons why  smartphones are perfect for recording FOD finds:

  • they have cameras
  • they have GPS
  • they can transmit data

The apps function would be very simple with the help of mobile testing services, take a picture of the FOD, select a category (wildlife, tools etc), and assign a risk (low, medium, high), that’s it. The image would be tagged with the location via GPS,and the data would then be sent to a central database. Once the FOD find has been recorded, the app could then give the location of the nearest FOD bin, or supply the phone number of the FOD manager.

Provide an incentive

Even if something is quick and easy to do people still need an incentive to do it. If the user who downloads the app also has to register, then any FOD finds they record will be registered against them, and then it’s simply a case of offering some form of reward, e.g. entry into a monthly prize draw. The more FOD they record the more likely they are to win.

Make it global

One of the advantages of this concept is that once a user has downloaded the app and registered as a user, it could be used on any airfield in the world, the GPS data would be all that’s required to identify the airfield, and this location information would then supply custom information back to the user i.e. the phone number of the FOD manager and the location of the FOD bins (or any FOD procedures that are unique to the airfield)

It’s all about the sharing

Where would all this FOD information go? I would strongly suggest to a single, centrally (FAA?) managed database. Airports could be given access via a website to the data collected from 100’s of airports, this data could then be used to generate better targeted FOD procedures.

If you have any thoughts on this concept then please leave a comment in the comments section below, or get in touch via the contact form.

Deployment of FOD detection systems

Before considering a FOD detection system, thought has to be given to where the system can be deployed on the airfield (if it can be deployed at all). For FOD Detect and FOD Finder this is not an issue, FOD Finder is a vehicle mounted system, and FOD Detect is installed in the place of existing runway lights. For Tarsier and iFerret, finding suitable locations can be difficult, not only due to the strict rules imposed by AC150/5300-13, but also by the availability of power and data-links.

Although the Tarsier and iFerret systems both employ different detection technologies (Radar and camera respectively), they are still both bound by the same requirement, they both need clear line-of-sight to the runway, and must achieve this without breaking the rules imposed in AC150/5300-13, specifically, the Primary Surface, the Transitional Surface and the Taxiway Object Free Area Width. (more…)

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