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MEDIA RELEASE 23 November 2005

Sydney Airport trials new runway debris detection radar
A new runway debris detection radar system will be trialled at Sydney Airport - the first demonstration in the Southern Hemisphere.

The trials will be held on 24 and 25 November and attended by the management of major airports in the region, as well as Government, airline and aviation executives.

The new groundbreaking Tarsier system, developed by United Kingdom company QinetiQ, can detect small items of potentially dangerous debris on airport runways around the clock and in all weathers.

Runway debris comprises of metal bolts, sections of carbon fibre grill and plastic and glass bottles. During the demonstration a section of the east-west runway was closed and items placed on the tarmac and subsequently detected by the Tarsier radar system.

The system has the potential to save lives and reduce the damage to aircraft caused by runway debris and can enhance the current manual approach which involves inspection by airport safety staff. It is estimated that debris damage and delays cost the international airline industry $4 billion US last year.

It is believed that runway debris was a major contributing factor to the crash of the Concorde flight in Paris in July 2000.

The Tarsier system is being installed at Vancouver airport and has undergone successful trials at London’s Heathrow, the world’s busiest airport, as well as New York’s JFK and Dubai International.

Sydney is Australia’s busiest airport, which handles 26 million passengers a year and over 500,000 tonnes of freight.

Frank Mondello, Manager Airfield at Sydney Airport welcomed the Tarsier trial and said that safety was a major issue for them, as well as a prevention of aircraft damage from runway debris.

“While our safety record is excellent, we are conscious of the need to maintain and improve standards, particularly when new technology is available,” he said.

Steve Brittan, Managing Director of QinetiQ Airport Radar said that Tarsier represents a significant change in runway safety and can make a significant difference to global airport safety.

The Tarsier system was developed by QinetiQ (then the UK’s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency) following enquiries from the British Airports Authority (BAA) and Vancouver International Airport Authority in the wake of the Paris Concorde crash.

The system, based on high-resolution millimetre wave radar, is able to detect small, potentially hazardous objects on a runway, to within an accuracy of three metres at a range of up to two kilometres. The system is also able to detect a range of different materials, including metal, plastic, glass, wood, fibreglass and animal remains.

Checking for runway debris is currently performed manually, which is time consuming, expensive and open to human error. It can take as long as 45 minutes to check a runway in between aircraft movements and this is particularly difficult in bad weather and at night. This can result in runway closures, delays in both arrival and departure slots and, most importantly, could potentially put passenger and staff safety at risk.


Note: More background on Tarsier is available on the QinetiQ website:

Released for Pacific Security & Environmental Solutions (Australasian agents QinetiQ) for by Dennis Rutzou Public Relations.

For further information call Dennis Rutzou or Marie Tritsaris, on (02) 9413 4244, or 0411 510 888.

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