Automated system to reduce runway incursions gets patent

By Control Engineering Staff December 22, 2006

I really, really don’t like the idea of bits of junk laying out on runways, just waiting to puncture the tires, fuel tanks, or any important parts of a jumbo jet I’m riding on. I’ll bet you feel the same way, too. And, as a private pilot, I get to see that stuff up close and personal. Gives me the willies!

Laser system (yellow flash) detects aircraft taxiing onto active runway. Courtesy Runway Technologies Click here to view the online demo.

Runway Technologies has just received a patent for a system with the potential to reduce the danger of runway-debris initiated aviation “incidents” and other runway incursions. Entrepreneur Byron Derringer, inventor of the newly patented system, recalls that, “The genesis for this idea came after the Concorde crash tragedy in France in 2000. The Concorde crashed on take-off after a small strip of metal ruptured the jetliner’s fuel tank.”Derringer’s automated system uses optical lasers to prevent airport runway incursion and detect debris. “Incursion” is pilot-talk for someone or something being on the runway when they’re not supposed to be. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):

“A runway incursion is any occurrence in the airport runway environment involving an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in a loss of required separation with an aircraft taking off, intending to take off, landing, or intending to land.’

It happens more than most people realize, and a lot more than anyone would like.

Derringer designed the Runway Technologies’ system to detect runway incursions with optical lasers installed around the runway perimeter, which constantly monitor the runway for potential hazards. If the system detects an incursion, debris or any other potentially hazardous object, it automatically sends that information to the aircraft slotted to use the runway, air traffic control, and/or ground-based personnel prior to the aircraft landing and takeoff in time for corrective action. The system is designed to provide situational awareness and direct safety warnings to those most able to take immediate action.

The optical lasers can be customized to detect debris at various heights and ranges. Another component of the system, the “object characterizer” can recognize, analyze, and understand what is seen, and in turn, report that information so corrective action can be taken.

While commercial aircraft spend only six percent of their flight time in takeoff, climb, final approach, and landing, this period accounts for 70 percent of hull loss accidents according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Foreign objects and debris alone have a $4 billion global price tag according to the National Aerospace FOD Prevention, Inc.

Runway Technologies is offering exclusive and non-exclusive license opportunities interested in commercializing the technology.

— C.G. Masi , Control Engineering senior editor

For more information, visit the Runway Technologies’ website at

For information about runway incursions, visit

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