Foreign object debris (FOD) can be anything from wildlife
and vegetation to scrap aircraft parts and litter that could be
encountered by an aircraft within the airport environment.
That definition creates a long list of potential debris to monitor
in a large area to keep the flying public safe.
One of the most significant sources of FOD can be environmental
stresses that damage airfield pavements over consistent, long
periods of weathering, such as freeze-thaw cycles. These stresses
can produce loose aggregate, grass growing through pavement
cracks, or, in the worst instances, sections of pavement that can
suddenly disappear because of buckling of a concrete surface or
underlying layer. This can be especially dangerous during takeoff
and landing because of the velocity of the aircraft.
Safety on the Runway
Fortunately, technology, including everything from radar detection
to lasers, has made FOD detection easier and more effective.
A stationary radar detection system can detect a metallic piece
of FOD as small as 1.2 inches by 1.5 inches from as far away as
0.6 miles. Similarly, a stationary electro-optical detection system
can detect slightly smaller debris at closer range, but with only
ambient lighting. Either of
these systems allows FOD
detection personnel to
sweep a large area without
having to physically walk
the runway, saving time and
resources. In addition, there
are hybrid systems available
that can further aid in
Arguably a more effective
system is a mobile radar
mounted on a vehicle
that can scan the airport
surfaces as the vehicle
moves. Its detection ranges
are comparable to the
stationary radars and are
effective at up to 30 mph.
New Methods for Finding, Controlling
Foreign Object Debris at Airports
By Jason Fuehne, PE
pavement is a primary
source of FOD.
Stationary Radar FOD