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An Israeli optical-radar system protects airport runways against birds and other foreign objects * The system is already operational in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, in Boston and in Bangkok.

Photo: XSight Systems
Photo: XSight Systems

Runways in Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, Boston’s Logan Airport and in Bangkok are protected against foreign objects by an Israeli designed system. Recent upgrades allow the system to protect airports against birds, a significant aviation threat.

Foreign objects and birds are capable of causing significant amounts of damage. Every airport has to deal with the dangers of planes landing on small objects while touching down, or birds flying into the engines of large aircraft. In military airports – including those of the Israeli Air Force – special teams are sent out every morning to scout the runways and look for foreign objects, before it’s time for the aircraft to take off. A recent technological goal has been the development of a system that can do all that automatically.

Israeli company Xsight Systems has developed FODetect, an automatic system capable of detecting foreign objects on airport runways. So far the system has been installed in airports in Israel, Boston and Bangkok. Around 70 electro-optic sensors and radar equipment have been installed along runways in Boston’s Logan Airport, completing a scan of the runways every 60 seconds and detecting every foreign object, no matter its size.

iHLSIsrael Homeland Security

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One recent system upgrade is the Bird Wize, a mechanism capable of detecting birds; another is a system that can remotely measure the depth of snow that accumulates on the runway. Both are extremely important for flights that are taking off or landing in certain areas.

The basic FODetect system is based on a combination of optics and radar. That’s how it works: Every unit continuously scans a runway segment using radar, sensors and image processing technology. When an animal, foreign object or bird is detected the control room operators are alerted and provided with the object’s image and precise location. An airport crew is then sent out to remove the object, allowing aircraft to land or take off safely.