Boulder City Municipal Beefs Up Security

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

As a small, predominantly general aviation airport, Boulder City Municipal (BVU) in Nevada had relatively small security issues: teenagers riding motorcycles on the runway at night; cars with no business at the airport driving through the hangar area; and people "procuring" gasoline for their boats afterhours.

But director Brok Armantrout's concerns were much bigger. They focused on the airport's neighbors: Hoover Dam, one of the nation's major infrastructures, and Las Vegas, an internationally popular vacation destination.

"If a terrorist managed to secure an aircraft to do damage to either the dam or Las Vegas," he says, "we were determined to make Boulder City a very unattractive starting point."

To beef up security, BVU added a $60,000 wireless video security system with video analytics software and installed $30,000 worth of proximity card readers at eight strategic locations throughout the airport.

Keeping Unwanted Traffic Out

According to Armantrout, it was common knowledge around Boulder City that it was easy to get into the airport. The old card reader system had broken and gates could be activated with an ordinary business card.

The eight new card readers use a 26-bit Weigand wire card to limit access to authorized personnel. All vehicle and pedestrian gates are equipped with a magnetic lock activated by the card reader. The ID cards include a photograph of the cardholder and are color-coded to the area of the airport to which the individual is granted access. Each card is programmed individually into the computer system.

"If I need to revoke someone's access privileges," says Armantrout, "I don't have to retrieve their card. I can just log onto the system and deny them access by deactivating the card."

F.E. Moran installed the card readers, then customized the system by using MaxStream wireless FM encryption technology to communicate with the main server at city hall.

"We basically made our own mesh network with these FM radios," explains Derek Spiger, western regional account manager for F.E. Moran. "With today's wireless technology, you don't have to tear up concrete to put in a security system. This is especially important in today's budget-conscious world."

In addition to the proximity card readers, F.E. Moran installed vehicle readers in emergency response vehicles such as fire trucks and some police vehicles. The readers open gates when equipped vehicles are approximately a quarter-mile away.

Smile for the Camera

Triad Wireless designed and installed a fully integrated citywide wireless network, of which the airport is one component. The company's S.P.I.R.I.T.(tm) (Secured Public Integrated Radio Infrastructure Technology) System steps beyond the traditional DVR security systems, which require personnel to monitor screens 24/7. Using Axis Communications PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras and ICx's PureActiv(r) video analytics software to communicate over a highly secure wireless network, the system automatically issues alerts to emergency response personnel based on predefined rules.

According to Triad CEO Rory Conaway, the company avoided problems often associated with wireless video. "You have to be careful with bandwidth so you don't put excessive load on the network, which can result in jerky video images and dropped frames," Conaway notes. "The more motion there is, the more bandwidth you need. We use a specific camera (Axis) that requires a quarter of the bandwidth required by most systems. With the PureActiv(r) software, we are able to make the entire system 'smart.'"

At an airport, FAA requirements regarding radio frequency conflicts are always an issue. The S.P.I.R.I.T.(tm) System utilizes the designated public safety and Homeland Security radio frequency band to share information.

"The system has been evaluated by Homeland Security for other locations," says Conaway. "It sets a new standard for a pro-active response environment instead of a forensic response system."

Triad created a similar design for the Phoenix Airport. "They wanted security along the tarmac, which is where Air Force One parks when it comes in," Conaway notes.

At BVU, the RF signal is bounced off a nearby mountain to a fiber feed on a city water tank to city hall, where the main data server is kept. The point-to-multipoint RF network allows video events at the airport to be monitored at the airport itself as well as at the local police station.

The radio system is a full-mesh system with built-in redundancies. If one link goes down, the mesh system rebuilds itself automatically to reconnect with the server via another pathway.


Facts & Figures

Project: New Airport Security System

Location: Boulder City (NV) Municipal Airport

System Design and Integration: Triad Wireless

Video Analytic Software: ICx Vision Systems

Proximity Card Readers: F.E. Moran, HID Corp., Honeywell, AAID Security Solutions and Digi International

Video Cameras: Axis Communications

Cost: Card Readers - $30,000;

Wireless Video Security and Analytics - $60,000

Smart Video

ICx's PureActiv(r) video analytics system works in conjunction with the Triad wireless system to detect and track moving objects of significance throughout the airport's facilities. The fully automated system precludes the need for security staff to monitor video screens for suspicious activity, which in turn lowers staffing costs. The system can be programmed to classify objects such as people, cars, trucks, etc., while ignoring motion resulting from changes in lighting and weather conditions. It also alerts security personnel with real-time images when predefined suspicious activity occurs.

"Our software handles the 'smarts' of the video network," says Eric Olson, director of product management at ICx Vision Systems. "The system analyzes and stores the video, the replay - the forensic analysis of events caught on camera. If an event occurs, our software will automatically detect it and notify security. It will also allow them to go back and highlight an area of the video and say 'show me all the activity we've had here in, say, the last six hours.' This makes it very easy for security personnel to see what occurred and when it occurred - evidence that you can bring to court if the need arises."

PureActiv(r) is a command and control system that works off a geo-spatial reference grid. The software turns the cameras into intelligent devices by emulating human vision. All of the cameras are placed on an animated map display and controlled at a remote computer terminal.

Cost Savings

Like many other communities these days, Boulder City struggles with budgetary constraints. Triad's design was particularly attractive because it allowed the city to develop an integrated wireless system that can be expanded as needs dictated and budgets allowed.

The primary issues were (1) how to gather data efficiently and economically and (2) how to reconcile needed security improvements with budgetary constraints.

The wireless network obviates the need for site analyses and construction costs to install expensive fiber lines. Analytic software cuts security staffing costs. Instituting a citywide security system consolidates resources, creates efficiencies and shares costs among departments. BVU is one component of a system virtually unlimited in its expansion capabilities

Currently, BVU has nine cameras monitoring gates, fence lines, hangar areas, ramps and runways. Seven more are expected, as the budget allows.

"At that point," says Armantrout, "we will reevaluate to determine if we still have additional coverage needs. Depending on our needs, we would install two to four cameras a year to fill in gaps."

About the Airport

Hoover Dam and Las Vegas not only affect security measures at Boulder City Municipal, they're fully entwined in its history and future. The airport was built in 1931 to accommodate commercial air service for construction companies working on the Hoover Dam project during the height of the Great Depression. Currently, four operators use it as their base for on-demand air charters to the Grand Canyon. Of the roughly 200 aircraft based at the airport, 35 are commercial.

Last year, the non-hub primary airport moved approximately 200,000 passengers. Its facilities include 140 private aircraft hangars, 190,000 square feet of commercial hangar space and three runways: a 4,800-foot primary runway, a 3,850-foot crosswind runway and an unlit 2,200-foot strip. Its new terminal is scheduled to open in March.


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