Development of an Airport Obstruction Identification System

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CAIT project no.: 115 RU6857

Fiscal Year: 2001/2002

Status: Final

Rutgers-CAIT Author(s): Patrick J. Szary, Matthew Zeller, Ali Maher

External Author(s): Edward S. Kondrath

Sponsor(s): NJDOT, USDOT


The State of New Jersey is extremely populated and rather small geographically. In order to ensure safety at all of the airports in New Jersey, an airport obstruction identification system must be developed. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Division of Aeronautics is statutorily obligated to identify all obstructions to the approaches at the State’s public use airports and heliports; and to have these obstructions removed. The objective of this research is the development of a prototype system to easily acquire data either at fixed intervals or over time and generate a tree removal or trimming plan for discretized trees or tree areas.

There are many different technologies that could be used for raw data collection at the airfields. It was subsequently determined that a radio-controlled helicopter rather than a blimp, balloon, or airplane would be better suited for the needs of this project. From a proof of concept perspective, the project was a success. Even though certain technical obstacles such as vibration were not overcome in the full-scale implementation, the development of an airport obstruction identification system utilizing low altitude mapping technologies is an extremely promising technology. Once fully developed, it can enable NJDOT to accurately identify, map, and remove trees that are currently posing a danger to arriving and departing aircraft at various airports within New Jersey. It will also enable the DOT to remove the suspect vegetation from property the first time, without missing any obstructions. The technology used within this project has the potential for use in many different future applications. Other uses for this technology include the possibility of use with DOT’s search and rescue operations and accident investigations.