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Senstar OmniTrax tested by Transportation Security Administration
Senstar OmniTrax tested by Transportation Security Administration
Airport security is detrimental to the confidence of the traveling public
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Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Airport security managers would agree that while 100% security at their airports is not realistic, it is critical to close the gaps in the total security environment at their facility as much as possible.

The following case study illustrates how a major US airport re-engineered perimeter security to avoid the issue of excessive false alarms while maintaining high levels of detection for intruders entering from the waterfront. This design will better integrate with existing fixed and Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras, while imposing a negligible effect on existing power and communications infrastructure.

The system also directs all alert detections to an existing head-end system for better overall security awareness.

Background: Airport security's changing landscape

The phrase "800 pound gorilla in the room" is a humorous way to describe the most obvious and sometimes the most overlooked issue, but when it comes to airport perimeter security, no one is laughing. There is nothing more detrimental to the confidence of the travelling American public than an "event" that impacts the safety and security of our transportation system. Airports pose the most spectacular mode of travel in which an event can occur.

In January 2009, people from around the world were glued to their television sets watching the account of US Airways flight 1549, and the masterful piloting of the powerless Airbus 320 into the Hudson River in New York by Captain "Sully" Sullenberger. On December 25th, 2009, a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Detroit narrowly escaped an attempted attack by an individual with ties to Al Qaeda, prompting calls and edicts by authorities for heightened passenger screening. But ask any security manager at a large, international U.S. airport: "What element of security at an airport is most important?" and you'll likely hear "All of it".

Those same security managers would admit that while 100% security is not realistic, it is imperative that gaps in the total security environment be closed as much as possible. Physical perimeter security is an area undergoing renewed attention, as airports, the transportation security administration (TSA), engineering firms, integrators and perimeter security technology suppliers collaborate to tighten intrusion detection attempts at the airport perimeter.

The challenges were six-fold:

Airport security management realised the risk that too many false and nuisance alarms by security technology was de-sensitising security teams to actual intrusions.

  • Microwaves were detecting normal traffic flow at the perimeter road that surrounds the airport
  • Debris and natural vegetation growth along the perimeter were causing numerous false alarms
  • While fixed cameras were sufficient to establish trip-wire rules along the fenced areas between runways, they were not reliably detecting intrusions coming from the waterside, at the approach and departure ends of the runway
  • Fixed cameras had limitations in some environmental conditions
  • The airport needed a solution that would have minimal impact on the network and power structure

What the client was looking for

The Authority wanted a technology that would not impose another layer of complexity on the operations staff and would make a distinct improvement in the accuracy of detecting intruders anywhere along the waterside perimeter. Furthermore, the technology would need to have a minimal impact on the network and power infrastructure of the airport, should be covert in operation, and should be of nominal cost to maintain.

The Authority wanted a technology that would not impose another layer of complexity on the operations staff with improvement in the accuracy of detecting intruders.

TSA evaluated technologies like surface detection radar, millimetre wave radar, laser and buried cable intrusion detection systems, etc

The TSA reviewed multiple technologies for cost, accuracy, complexity and maintenance. These technologies included surface detection radar (existing aircraft surface radar system), millimeter wave radar, thermal imaging cameras, laser (break beam), and buried cable (guided RF) intrusion detection systems. In each case the technology was measured against the following minimum requirements:

  • High Probability of detection (Pd)
  • Low False Alarm Rate (FAR)
  • Low Vulnerability of defeat (Vd)
  • Low impact on existing communications power infrastructure (requirement to add power or communication sources) and personnel (training)
  • Covert installation
  • Simple integration into existing head-end system
  • Simple integration into existing camera surveillance network
  • Proven technology, proven company track record in deployment

The solution: OmniTrax

The only technology that met all of the named requirements was Senstar's world-leading buried cable intrusion detection system: OmniTrax. OmniTrax provided the airport authority with a terrain following, all-weather, 24 / 7 covert detection system that pushes the detection boundary to nearly the water's edge. Once deployed, the airport would create a literal human "tripwire" around the perimeter that would give operators the time needed to quickly assess the intrusion and respond accordingly to deter it.

The airport security team wanted to create a state-of-the-art perimeter detection capability that fit into their scheme of multi-layer, no single point of failure as a means to close the gaps around the perimeter. OmniTrax is upgradable, meaning that as the airport expands its coverage requirements (new runways, taxiways, other additions, etc.), OmniTrax can be expanded without disrupting the original installation.

The system requires nominal routine maintenance. Most maintenance operations are visual inspection of the protected above ground processor pedestal, and monitoring of the system console which will identify power faults, battery condition (fail-safe battery back-up is on board), and cable integrity. Being an underground technology, the cable system is naturally protected from lightning strikes, ultraviolet radiation, precipitation, and other environmental factors that naturally degrade exposed components.

With the OmniTrax system in place, airport authorities will move closer to the goal of achieving "no gaps" in their security profile, while providing security personnel a means to "see more", "do more" and provide the travelling public with greater peace of mind.

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