Airport sweeper technologies have significantly transformed foreign object debris (FOD) management in airports to prevent hazardous situations and accidents. There is no one best technology for sweeping FOD from large airport runways and surface areas because every sweeper technology has its strengths and weaknesses. That means you should properly assess the challenges in your facility to choose the ideal option.

Crucial questions to analyze include:

  • What environmental FOD is present in my facility? Is it mud, leaves, or dust?
  • What is the most critical FOD that may be found in the area?
  • What is the texture of the surface? Smooth or coarse?
  • How many people can assign for FOD control?

Let’s look at the different FOD sweeper technologies.

Magnetic sweepers

Airport sweepers that use magnetic technology are recommended for airports where ferrous metal FOD is common. It is made of an assembly of industrial magnets housed inside a protective metal casing. It is usually installed underneath a wheeled vehicle, and the magnets collect nuts, scraps, bolts, and other ferrous metals as it passes over the surfaces. It has no moving parts hence no maintenance requirements.

Vacuum sweepers

Vacuum sweepers are suitable for controlling FOD in highly dusty environments and other uneven surfaces. It comes with air nozzles that suction FOD in the runway into a hopper, and others have side brooms that direct the debris to the side of the nozzle. The advantage of the vacuum sweeper technology is that it enables you to control FOD even in potholes and generates less dust. However, it might not collect large FOD due to a narrow diameter nozzle.

Mechanical sweepers

A mechanical sweeper has a spinning broom that continuously sweeps FOD into a hopper. In some sweepers, additional brooms help direct debris to the main broom. A mechanical sweeper is suitable for controlling surface and subsurface FOD efficiently. The advantage is that it can sweep road millings heavy material and reach cracks, especially when it has an adjustable height. The technology is also popular because it has been there for quite a while. However, bristles are prone to breaking off and becoming FOD when sweeping, and the maintenance cost can be high because it has many moving parts.

Friction mat sweepers

A friction mat sweeper is ideal for small surface FOD, especially in safety-critical places. What happens is that a wide bristled mat is towed behind a vehicle and drags the debris underneath. Some rigid plastic scoops collect the debris for later disposal. The best thing about friction mat sweepers is that they capture FOD more efficiently than other sweepers, are lightweight, portable, and have low maintenance requirements due to the absence of moving parts. However, they can be unsteady in windy conditions.

Regenerative air sweepers

These are similar to vacuum sweepers, but they have air blasts instead of side brooms. The blasts suck in air and debris, recirculates the suctioned air, and blasts it back on the surface, pushing debris towards the nozzle. They sweep large surfaces and are environmentally friendly.

The takeaway

You can utilize more than one technology of sweepers in facilities that demand high FOD control.

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