AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A tiny black box that can record up to 3,000 years worth of data could help improve safety and prevent plane crashes at small general aviation airports.
The GARD system, or General Audio Radio Device, was developed by Maine Department of Transportation Engineer Ron Cote and Augusta State Airport Manager John Guimond.
After a plane crash last November at Knox County Regional Airport killed three University of Maine students, airports across the state reviewed their safety procedures.
The crash happened when a small, single engine plane took off and clipped a pickup truck crossing the runway. The plane then crashed in the woods.
Knox County Airport Manager Jeffrey Northgraves said at the time he had no way to determine exactly what happened because the airport didn't have the ability to record airplane and ground radio traffic.
That all changed when Guimond and Cote unveiled the GARD system. The device records radio transmissions of airplanes and ground traffic at small general aviation airports.
Northgraves said his airport purchased the GARD system in February, and it has lead to improvements in safety procedures.
At the Augusta State Airport, Guimond said the device can also be a useful training tool.
"I'm able to go back, listen to those audios, and use it for training of pilots and ground people," Guimond said. "If they say something that's not quite right or just didn't make sense, I can bring them in, we can listen to it, and we can make adjustments to how they're broadcasting on the runway."
Since Guimond and Cote teamed up to form Invisible Intelligence LLC and the GARD system, it has sold to five airports across Maine and has drawn interest nationwide.
"It's more about the safety aspect for John and I," Cote said. "We realize it's probably worth more than what we're doing, but if we can save one life, can you put a price on that?"
The device costs between $2,000 and $3,200 depending on the buyer's need. The state said it's looking into reimbursing municipal airports that buy the GARD system up to half the total cost.
Cote said the next step is developing software to identify key words in audio recordings as another tool to improve safety, and pushing the device to more airports nationwide.