Sweeper Overview

Foreign object debris (FOD) is a major threat in manufacturing and aviation environments. Not only does it pose the risk of causing costly damage to equipment, machinery and vehicles, but it also has the potential to create dangerously unsafe conditions, particularly in active flight lines. However, most FOD is preventable with the right processes and the right equipment. Professionals use three primary FOD sweeper systems to control foreign object debris in larger FOD critical areas: tow-behinds, vacuum trucks and walk-behinds. Each of these systems has its own advantages and proper usage guidelines. To minimize the risk of foreign object damage in your aviation or manufacturing environment, it’s essential that you understand the relative merits of each major type of FOD sweeper.

The Tow-Behind FOD Sweeper
Tow-behind sweepers come in a variety of configurations and are valued for their (comparatively) lower operating costs and simplicity of operation. Unlike the other sweepers that typically have motorized components or complicated machinery incorporated into their design, tow behind sweepers are generally powered by external vehicles and are therefore easier to maintain and simpler to operate.
While there are many different models available, tow-behind FOD sweepers can generally be classified into industrial-grade or military-grade, and classified as either a spinning brush based system or as a friction mat system.
The major difference between an industry and a military tow-behind FOD sweeper is that military models tend to have faster travel speeds, sturdier construction and (where applicable) boosted magnetic capacities.
The differences between spinning brush systems and friction mats is that spinning brush systems use traction drive mechanisms to translate the forward motion of the sweeper into power to spin their brushes (with their spinning brushes collecting the FOD into containment hoppers), while friction mats are dragged along the surface to be cleaned and use kinetic energy to collect small FOD into collection pouches.  Both varieties work well but spinning brush systems generally provide a longer service life, while friction mats are highly portable.

Here are some features to look for in tow-behind brush based FOD sweepers:

  • Large magnets which quickly and effectively remove metal debris from open areas
  • Storage trays for collected debris, which can be emptied simply by flipping the magnets over
  • Varied sweeping widths, typically ranging between 4 feet and 8 feet

A tow-behind FOD sweeper is an ideal solution for managing and containing FOD when a blend of agility, efficacy, and cost effectiveness are needed.

Vacuum Trucks
These sweepers use powerful truck-mounted vacuums to remove FOD from large open areas. While FOD vacuum trucks can remove a comprehensive set of materials in a range of sizes, they are best for sweeping large areas where maneuverability is not a primary concern. Since FOD vacuum trucks are relatively costly to purchase and expensive to maintain, they are most common in commercial environments with higher operating budgets and larger volumes of FOD to contain.
Vacuum trucks are very comfortable to drive (providing a fully climate controlled working environment for the operator), and in wide-open outdoor environments where continuous FOD sweeping (8 + hours a day) is the norm, there is perhaps no better solution than a vacuum truck.

The Walk-Behind FOD Sweeper
These FOD sweepers are generally the lowest cost option.  They fall into two principal categories, powered and non-powered.  Non-powered walk-behind sweepers are usually designed with side broom assemblies mounted atop solid steel hoppers. These walk-behind FOD sweepers are very quiet to operate, require little in the way of maintenance, and provide a far more effective alternative to manual sweeping. These sweepers are best used in contained areas and indoor environments, as their smaller sizes limit their ability to cover large areas.
Powered walk-behind sweepers generally have small engines that power smaller vacuums or sweeping brushes.  These sweepers tend to be similar in size to snow-blowers and are often used to supplement larger sweeper systems in ramp areas or other environments where high maneuverability is required.

Regardless of what combination of sweepers are employed in any specific environment, they are only going to be effective when used properly and as part of a comprehensive FOD prevention strategy, which includes thorough training of personnel, regular inspections of equipment and locations, comprehensive maintenance, and internal coordination among all levels of staff.

To learn more and connect with further resources, visit FOD News or FOD Control.

FOD News Roundup – December 3rd, 2018

Baggage Handlers and FOD

From broken booze bottles and missing tags to the 20-foot bag toss, find out how ramp agents manage suitcases, FOD-related and otherwise.

Image Source: Bonnie Henderson/Pixabay


Drones More Dangerous Than Birds

When the University of Dayton Research Institue’s (UDRI) Impact Physical Group test-fired both a drone and a gel bird into an aircraft wing, the impact results were surprising.

Image Source: University of Dayton


FOD Walk Rap

Hip Hop your way across the apron to keep it clean of debris with this music video.

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot

It’s never too early to prepare!

Start your 2019 budget plans with good data. Contact us with your FOD sweeping program requirements and we’ll help you with equipment options, pricing and technical documentation.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FOD News Roundup – November 3rd, 2018

FOD Control: First Rung on a Career Ladder

A security guard at Wheeler Downtown Airport took a pay cut to collect FOD and patrol fences. It’s how he’s getting his foot in the door.

Image Source: Pixabay


665 Bird Strikes in the US, 2015 – 2017

Over a three year period, hundreds of encounters caused $3.7 million worth of damage, three deaths and eight injuries.

Image Source: Bigstock


747 vs. Ground Vehicle

Show your GSE drivers this extensive impact damage to the engine of a Boeing 747 at Schiphol Airport. That should keep them driving safely.

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot

FOD Control at the GSE Expo

:We had a great time in Las Vegas this year, discussing ground safety programs with airfield operators from all over the world. See you next time in 2020!

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – September 3rd, 2018

New FAA Wildlife Guidelines

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued new guidelines prioritizing various types of wildlife that should be kept off the runway.

Image Source: Bigstock


VIDEO: 3RD Wing FOD Manager

Take a tour with a United States Air Force career sergeant as he inspects maintenance shops for tool control, to keep its military aircraft safe.

Image Caption: YouTube Screenshot


FOD Damages US Fighter Jets

A US Navy F-35C suffered $2 million worth of engine damage during refueling operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

Image Source: US Navy

The FOD-Razor® “Mark 2”

: Released earlier this year, our upgraded design includes sturdier mat materials, streamlined tow hitching and an operator-enabled safety release.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – June 3rd, 2018

It’s video month! Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy these recent entries in the world of FOD prevention.

Alligator Struts Across Florida Airport Runway

Go ahead, you tell him to leave. I’ll wait over here.

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot


Behind the scenes with the Airside Operations team

When you take your job seriously, it’s no longer just a job.

Image Caption: YouTube Screenshot


Cargo Ship Loses Containers on route to Sydney

Think you have FOD problems?

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot

Fabrication debris on glass

DIY way to test if your “Clean” window was contaminated during manufacturing

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot

Monkey escapes crate at San Antonio Airport

Yes, the alligator has a friend.

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot

Even we’re not sure what to make of this…

Here’s a well-meaning, amateur video promoting FOD safety. Enjoy it for what it is.

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot

Have a FOD problem without a solution?

We’re always researching and developing new products for better FOD control in both airport and manufacturing environments. Bring us your problems and let’s toss around some ideas!

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – May 3rd, 2018

Fresh Approaches to Runway Safety

The Federal Aviation Administration is studying the possible application of three off-the-shelf technologies to airside safety — heated pavements, rumble strips and remote sensing. (Click here for mobile friendly version.)

Image Source: FAA


Building Satellites in Clean Rooms

Airbus Defense and Space used a ISO 8 clean room to build the Solar Orbiter scientific research satellite, which is scheduled to orbit the sun in 2020.

Image Caption: Artist’s Rendering of Solar Orbiter. Copyright: ESA – C. Carreau


Video: F-16 Bird Strike

Watch this graphic footage of a Norwegian Air Force fighter jet experiencing a compressor stall after ingesting a bird into its air intake.

Image Source: Screen Shot

Comparing Airport Sweeper Technologies

There is no “best” sweeping system, only the most appropriate system for your facility and FOD control program. Read this white paper to understand your options. Contact us for more information.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – April 3rd, 2018

Auxiliary Power Unites Vulnerable to FOD

Until recently APU’s, which start main engines and power avionics and other on-board equipment, have been neglected child of aircraft systems.

Image Credit: SrA Olivia Bumpers, USAF


Dust Hazards of 3D Printing

The additive manufacturing process creates an especially dangerous form of FOD – combustible dust clouds in a confined factory space.

Image Credit: Lutz Peter (Pixabay)


Military FOD Walk

Watch this trio of videos following a FOD Walk performed for the 2017 Air Show at Moody Air Force Base.

Image Credit: Luke Hinkle (YouTube Screenshot)

We have redesigned the FOD-Razor® Airport Runway Sweeper!

Featuring a new built-in “hitch and forget” weight-release mechanism, streamlined hitching setup, and durable nylon fiber matting. Contact us for more information.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – March 3rd, 2018

Transpacific Flight vs Paper Clipboard

The ground crew knew that it was sitting on the engine, but nobody told the flight crew. Until the plane was already in the air, that is. This time they were lucky.

Image Credit: Pixabay


Shop Cart Cleanup, FOD, and Grinder “Line of Fire”

Watch this safety video from autoclave manufacturer ASC Process Systems, discussing how to keep factory floors orderly and accident-free in a heavy industry environment.

Image Source: YouTube Screenshot


Wildlife Strike Gathering

On May 15th – 18th, the International Civil Aviation Organization and Airports Council International will host a symposium on the wildlife strike threat to aircraft operational safety.

Image: Bigstock


Nothing Holds FOD Like Our FOD Cans

Promote safety awareness with a high-visibility collection point for all types of Foreign Object Debris — from shop rags and loose paper to empty bottles and stray pieces of hardware.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – January 3rd, 2018

Challenges of Regulating Small Drones

Why are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles so difficult to regulate, and why are there so few documented cases of accidents involving UAV’s?

Image Credit: Goh Rhy Yan


Farewell, Piper

Piper the airport dog, famous on social media for wearing goggles while chasing birds away from Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, Michigan, has passed away.

Image Source: Cherry Capital Airport K9


Now That’s Clean!

If you’re a facilities manager looking for inspiration, check out this short video of a spotless wig-making factory in the Philippines

Image: YouTube Screenshot


Keep your Work Wear FOD Free

Our FOD Suits have no pockets, zippers, buttons or ties, so there’s nothing to break off and no way to carry loose items that can turn into debris.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – December 3rd, 2017

FOD Crashes Marine Corps Jet

Learn how a 5/16th-inch double hexagon bolt caused a catastrophic engine failure to an AV-8B Harrier jet, the pilot’s response, and the final determination by investigators.


Sky Lanterns Threaten Navigation

The Airports Authority of India is warning authorities that popular events involving the mass release of paper sky lanterns into air poses a safety hazard for aircraft.

Image Source: Romel Frost, Pixabay


Video: Molten FOD Conquers Earth

We kid you not! Watch this massive, accidental overflow at a steel factory. At 44 seconds in, you’ll see what it would look like if space aliens attacked with a FOD cannon.

Image: YouTube Screenshot


Hazardous Material Storage

Keep your hazmat chemicals clean, safe and out of the way with our safety-compliant Justrite® brand storeage cabinets, outdoor lockers and drum sheds.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – November 3rd, 2017

Clean Factories

The best time to plan for periodic cleaning of your equipment is at the beginning — when you first design your manufacturing floor.

Image source: Bigstock


Civil Engineering Squadron

At Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. specialists maintain runways and related facilities for the oldest active U.S. Air Force airfield.

Image Credit:  Airman 1st Class Anthony Nin Leclerec, U.S. Air Force.


Video: Ramp Safety

This excellent training video utilizes real-life examples of safe and unsafe practices when handling aircraft and ground equipment on the ramp.

Image: YouTube Screenshot


Read our White Papers!

Looking for ideas? Our free white papers and sample use case will increase your knowledge and improve your FOD program.Contact us for details.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FODNews Roundup – October 3rd, 2017

Bird or FOD?

India’s Pune International Airport is disputing Air India’s claim that a bird struck of the latter’s airliners, claiming that evidence indicates runway FOD instead.

Image source: Bigstock


Printed Circuit Boards

Electronic PCB assemblies may not be a clean as you think, even fresh out of the assembly plant. Manufacturers need to improve their debris-removal procedures.

Image Source: Bigstock


Accident Rate Plunges

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) reports that the global commercial aviation accident rate is at an all-time low.

Image: Bigstock


New! The FOD-Razor™ v.2

We’re upgrading our popular FOD-Razor™ Airport Runway sweeper with a more durable turf material, increasing its lifespan for even greater value to your runway sweeping program! Contact us for details.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FOD News Roundup – August 3rd, 2017

Making Debris Profitable

A challenging effort is underway in India to recycle construction and demolition debris into a cost-effective alternative to conventional building materials.

Image source: Pixabay


The “Dirt Boyz”

When the pavement at Barksdale Air Force Base takes a pounding from heavy rains and a wing of B-52 Stratofortresses, it’s up to the 2nd Civil Engineering Squadron to repair it.

Image Source: United States Air Force


Video: Helipad Safety

Do you ever work or travel around helicopters? A leading air medical transport operator teaches you how to stay safe and complete your mission, especially during emergency operations.

Image: YouTube Screenshot


New! The FOD-Razor™ v.2

We’re upgrading our popular FOD-Razor™ Airport Runway sweeper with a more durable turf material, increasing its lifespan for even greater value to your runway sweeping program! Contact us for details.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FOD News Roundup – July 3rd, 2017

No, It Doesn’t Help!

Hoping to receive good luck before her flight from Pudong Airport in Shanghai, an elderly passenger attempted to toss nine coins into one of the jet’s engines.

Image credit: China People’s Daily


Video: DIY Dust Collection Setup

Looking for ideas? a young craftsperson shows you how he created a comprehensive air-flow system to route wood dust from his workshop to a collection drum.

Image credit: YouTube Screenshot


FOD Detection Systems receive boost from FCC

The US Federal Communications Commission has approved an increase in the available bandwidth for vehicle and aircraft radar systems, which can improve the capability of radar-based FOD detection systems at airports.

Image source: Pixabay


This Portable Tool Kit Will Never Go Missing!

The UT TREY Small Parts Organizer glows when exposed to black light, making it easier to locate and retrieve before sealing equipment housings, engine compartments or other enclosed spaces.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation

FOD News Roundup – June 3rd, 2017

European Union: Airlines Exempt From Bird Strike Liability

In a ruling seen as favorable to air carriers, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that bird strikes are “extraordinary events” beyond their control.

Image credit: Bigstock


Airports Seek Increase in Passenger Fees

Funding infrastructure improvements costs money that is always in short supply. That’s why airport managers want the federal government to raise the longtime $4.50 cap on the Passenger Facility Charge.

Image credit: Bigstock


Repaving a Runway

Want to see how it’s done? Watch this entertaining short video of repaving and other maintenance operations at Bahrain International Airport.

Image source: YouTube Screenshot


Shopping for a new FOD Sweeper?

Not sure which type of sweeper would fit your facility’s specific FOD control needs? Just complete our handy Assessment Form and we’ll recommend some equipment for you.

Image Source: The FOD Control Corporation