Protecting the perimeter – enhancing airport security
Ian Littell from Axis Communications, considers the challenges of providing effective airport perimeter protection, and discusses the latest developments in security and safety measures.
Airports are an important part of our critical national infrastructure. As such, it’s imperative that they are protected by a comprehensive security solution which is able to provide continual year-round surveillance and security.
The sheer size of an airport, with perimeters that can run for miles, means that providing the high levels of layered protection is no easy task, and this presents many challenges.
Security measures must consider both the threat and the operating requirements. There will always be environmental constraints and it’s imperative that the security provision does not interfere or conflict with the vast array of communications equipment endemic of any airport.
Much consideration must be given to finding a solution that integrates seamlessly into the existing infrastructure, providing high levels of accuracy and allowing for timely incident alert and response.
Traditional security solutions often result in operational headaches for security teams. Intrusion detection solutions physically integrated into a perimeter fence, for example, are unfortunately not fool-proof and can produce false alarms, referred to as ‘false positives’.
Common causes of false positives include animals, moving plants and trees, and even wind. As it’s not always possible for security staff to quickly and accurately determine the cause of an alarm until a site has been physically checked, this can waste valuable time and resources, and could result in apathetic or overstretched staff ignoring a genuine threat.
Other intrusion detectors, such as lasers, can be positioned on the perimeter of the airport, but these too can be affected by false positives and restricted by limited detection capabilities over distance or at height.
Radar has real benefits as it uses electromagnetic waves to detect movement. Consequently, radar is not sensitive to the things that normally trigger false alarms, e.g moving shadows, light beams, small animals, raindrops or insects, wind, and bad weather, meaning false alarms are much less likely.
Capable solutions for effective airport security
The newest generation of network video technologies can reduce operating overheads dramatically, by cutting down the number of false positive alerts. Significantly improved images provide remote operators with the ability to accurately assess a situation before despatching a ground team.
The combination of video surveillance cameras and motion detection software has expanded the range and capabilities of perimeter protection solutions from simple detection to complex intrusion analysis.
Today’s specially designed cameras feature sensors that are capable of producing highly detailed images even in rain, fog or at night. Motion detection algorithms can work with existing perimeter alarms to improve the ability to detect intrusions quickly and efficiently, and the ease and reduced cost of deployment also makes blanket coverage of a perimeter much more feasible.
Cameras with a combination of low light capability and a high dynamic range (HDR) can be used in conjunction with drone detection solutions to provide positive identification and recorded evidence.
The detection and verification of a small drone sized aerial threat is all but impossible using traditional methods, but with today’s technologies security teams can be fully briefed as soon as a drone is detected in the vicinity of the airfield, allowing appropriate action to be taken.
Combining visual data from cameras with other sources, such as infra-red imaging, can further improve detection capabilities. Thermal (or thermographic) cameras, when coupled with video analytics software, can protect an area any time of day or night.
Sensors using thermal technology are often well suited to airports as they offer excellent detection capabilities over considerable distances; ideal for large estates. The addition of integrated IP audio horn speakers allows warnings to be issued to deter any would-be intruder, or ensure that animals keep their distance from the airfield.
A converged approach to security that includes input from other departments, such as IT and operations, is fast becoming best practice. Additionally, and of relevance to airports with large areas of restricted access, there is a need to involve those with experience in conducting the civil engineering requirements as early as possible.
Historically, a good starting point for the perimeter would always have been the more traditional measures, which typically deter and delay a potential intruder. But, with many measures and systems now integrating with each other, a more considered and holistic approach is required.
I’ve already mentioned how modern networked IP cameras are capable of reducing unnecessary deployment of security teams. This represents a clear return on investment. In addition, modern as-a-service payment models allow security managers to pay only for the services and solutions that they require, fully scalable to their needs, which avoids the traditional capital expenditure with investment required upfront.
The as-a-service model offers fully supported technologies with timely upgrades and security patches issued to ensure systems are constantly kept up to date, secure and operating efficiently.
Integrated networked security technologies therefore offer a highly desirable security solution. Modern IP based technology is affordable and scalable while able to provide enhanced perimeter protection and, through fully supported surveillance and security systems backed by powerful analytics, enables security teams to respond accurately and swiftly in the event of a potential threat.
An Airport Perimeter Security Whitepaper by Axis Communications is available to download for anyone wanting to know more.