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Radar system could makes runways safer
by Staff Writers
Wachtberg, Germany (UPI) Aug 4, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

German researchers say a new sensing system to spot debris on a runway could prevent disasters like the 2000 crash of the Concorde in France that killed 113.

Parts often become detached from aircraft during the stresses of take-offs and landings, putting subsequent runway users at risk as was the case with the Concorde, which ran over a piece of metal, bursting a tire that sent debris into a fuel tank, causing it to catch fire.

Currently, airport workers must periodically drive up and down runways looking for such debris, a time-consuming an error-prone process.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany say the new system can monitor runways continuously for debris and warn of any dangers.

"Our technology would have prevented the Concorde tragedy from happening," Fraunhofer researcher Helmut Essen said.

"Devices installed all along the runway continuously scan the surface," he said. "They can detect even the smallest of items, such as screws, but the system will only issue a warning if an object remains on the runway for a longer period of time. A windblown plastic bag or a bird resting briefly will not set off the alarm."

The system consists of infrared cameras, optical 2-D and 3-D cameras, and networked radar sensors.

Initial testing will begin at Cologne-Bonn airport this fall, researchers said.

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