A system developed by the Israeli company XSIGHT for detecting foreign objects on aircraft runways – originally designed for the civilian market – is generating interest among air forces around the world. The system is intended to be installed onboard aircraft carrier take-off and landing runways.
“The military market will represent nearly 30% of our business in the coming years,” says XSIGHT CEO Alon Nitzan. He adds, "An aircraft crash on the landing runway can put the entire vessel in peril. Most air forces operate single-engine fighter aircraft, and a foreign object entering the engine creates a large and immediate threat to the aircraft and whoever pilots it."
The company is negotiating with several clients that manage fleets of aircraft carriers.
The challenge of detecting Foreign Object Debris (FOD) on runways is global and serious. Objects falling from aircraft or from vehicles are sucked into aircraft engines, resulting in severe malfunctions.
An Air France Concord supersonic passenger aircraft crashed in 2000 after a metallic object on the runway caused a puncture in one of its wheels, causing it to crash. One hundred and nine passengers and the entire crew was killed, as well as several people on the ground. Since then, awareness of the issue has increased.
The Israeli company XSIGHT has developed an automatic system capable of detecting foreign objects on airport runways. The system, known as FODETECT, has recently been installed over part of the runways at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. A similar system is also installed at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, Boston Logan Airport, and at an airport in an undisclosed Asian country.
The small sensors are integrated with the runway lights and contain a millimetric radar and IR sensor. The future market for systems meant to manage the FOD problem in aviation infrastructure is estimated at nearly $10 billion.
The XSIGHT system, which includes many sensors deployed over the length of the runway, also allows aviation companies and airport operators to investigate “hard landings” of aircraft, which require inspection of undercarriages after landing.