Boston Logan Airport has unveiled the US’s first automated Foreign Object Debris (FOD) detection system on its runway in a move to save lives and prevent damage to the aircraft.
The $1.7m system was unveiled by officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), airport owner Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) and developer Xsight Systems.
The system was deployed on the Boston Logan Airport’s busiest runway, 9/27.
FAA associate administrator for Airports Christa Fornarotto said: "Using technology to find and remove potentially damaging objects on the airfield takes safety up another notch at Logan Airport.
"Massport has a history of investing in cutting-edge technology and working with the FAA on important airport safety initiatives."
The new system will complement the efforts of the airport personnel who manually check the debris several times a day on the 7,000ft runway.
The system features 68 sensors that monitor the length of the runway, and is the first debris detector to receive FAA certification.
The small sensors, which are mounted on runway light fixtures, continually scan the runway for debris such as dislodged airplane parts, chunks of asphalt, metal shards, rocks, and other objects which could damage an aircraft.
If a foreign object as small as a bolt lands on the runway, an alarm is activated in the control tower.
The video cameras send the images of the debris to airport personnel, who can evaluate and decide if the foreign objects should be removed or not.
FAA provided $900,000 funding for the detection system installation through the Airport Technology Research Program under an agreement that enabled Massport to provide the remaining funding and procure the technology.
The presence of debris can damage engines and aircraft, and costs billions of dollars a year, and can lead to serious accidents.
While airport operators traditionally use vehicles to scan and clear airport runways, taxiways and aprons using sweepers, vacuums and magnet bars that are operated manually, automation can provide continuous monitoring and detection, as well as precise information about the location of the debris.
The FAA has alerted the airport community that limited discretionary Airport Improvement Program grant funding will be available for operational FOD detection systems at three large hub airports across the country.