Vancouver Int'l Installs Integrated Perimeter Security System

Victoria Soukup Jensen
Published in: 

Vancouver International Airport (YVR), in British Columbia, recently installed a high-tech integrated perimeter system that officials believe will save money while effectively screening for potential security breaches at Canada's second-busiest airport.

The 24-kilometer system gathers and coordinates information from thermal imagers, ground surveillance radar and cameras, and feeds the data in real time to security personnel. Importantly, humans determine whether further investigation is necessary.

YVR, which served nearly 18 million passengers and handled more than 228,000 tons of cargo last year, implemented FLIR Systems' CommandSpace(tm) integrated system in fall 2013. Installation took about six months.

Project: Proactive Security Enhancements
Location: Vancouver (BC) Int'l Airport
Integrated Perimeter Security: CommandSpace(tm), by FLIR
Size: 24 kilometers
Technologies Employed: Ground surveillance radar, thermal imagers & cameras
Project Timeframe: 6 months
Required Infrastructure Changes: Creation of redundant electrical supply; upgrades to operations center; installation of monitors; seismically rated concrete foundations for equipment
Key Benefits: Increased perimeter security; enhanced operational awareness; increased efficiency of security personnel
Automated Gates: Alpha Cantilever Sliding Gates & Trackless Bi-Folding SpeedGates, by Wallace Int'l
Key Benefits: Increased security; expedited movement of vehicles into/out of secure areas; tailgating prevention

"Ensuring a safe and secure airport is our top priority at the Vancouver Airport Authority, and our state-of-the-art perimeter intrusion detection system is another way for us to do just that," says Craig Richmond, president and chief executive officer of Vancouver Airport Authority. "What's great about the system is that it not only allows our security personnel to monitor the airfield's perimeter 24/7, but it's also an effective tool for providing overall insight into all airside activities - from management to vehicle use."

Some airports have cameras, radar or thermal imaging, but few have integrated systems that incorporate all three technologies, explains Andrew Saxton, FLIR's director of airport security. YVR's system was the company's seventh integrated system installation; the first was at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Overall, the company has provided security systems at more than 50 airports worldwide.

"The value of the integrated system is that instead of the operators seeing there is something going on along the perimeter and having to worry about figuring out which camera is closer, then steering and focusing it, the software system takes care of all that," Saxton says.

Ahead of the Curve

Andrew Boyce, coordinator of security operations at YVR, says that the airport was being proactive when it decided to install the new system to ensure safety and security. FLIR's proposal was selected because it met the airport's overall business requirements; incorporated existing infrastructure, which saved money; and allowed for future reconfiguration, adds Boyce.

FLIR technicians and engineers designed the system after meeting with YVR officials and jointly determining what areas at the airport needed protection and the type of coverage necessary.

FLIR brought in all of the hardware - including poles, radar and imaging equipment - and installed the radar and camera pods, back-end servers and user workstations. It was also responsible for system testing, commissioning and training. YVR was responsible for the design and installation of supporting electrical and data infrastructure.

The airport created a redundant electrical supply to handle the system; upgraded its operations center to accommodate a dedicated central processing unit; and installed monitors. Seismically rated concrete foundations were also installed on the property for the radar pods. This measure was taken to ensure that the pad and attached system hardware will remain stable and structurally sound in the event of an earthquake, Boyce explains.

The program uses strategically placed ground surveillance radar to pick up suspected motion on the property, explains Saxton. Numerous cameras with thermal imaging capabilities automatically activate, spin and focus to examine and track activity. The cameras are linked; so as an object moves from one camera's field of view, another camera automatically picks it up.

"The system automates the process of figuring out which is the nearest camera to give the best picture of what the radar is looking at," Saxton relates. "Security staff can focus on directing ground crews, using the location information provided by the system, and perform whatever tasks they decide are necessary. It provides a real clear picture of what's going on around the perimeter of the airport with as little effort as possible."

Military-Grade Radar

Saxton describes the system's ground surveillance radar as "exceptionally accurate" and notes that it is the same type used by U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Because we correlate each sweep of the radar with the next and previous ones, the probability of a false target being shown goes down exponentially, so it is near zero," he explains. 

Incorporating all three technologies is key to eliminating false alarms, he adds: "Using multiple technologies gives personnel definitive answers that there either is or is not something out there the operators need to pay attention to."

Boyce reports just one snag with the system: An eagle decided to perch on one of its high-tech cameras. The more operators rotated the camera to shake off the eagle, the more it hung on. "The problem was that the eagle's massive talons fell in front of the lens, rendering the camera useless," Boyce recalls.

The airport quickly remedied the situation by installing bird spikes on top of the camera housings.

Manpower & Machines

YVR considers its perimeter intrusion detection system (PIDS) a cost-effective way to keep the airport secure. "PIDS does not replace manpower," emphasizes Boyce. "Rather, it operates 24/7 and monitors at a standard that would be cost prohibitive by using manpower alone."

According to Saxton, airports are increasingly opting for advanced security systems. "Airports are very busy operational areas," he relates. "The last thing they need is to divert resources toward events that do not actually require intervention. At the same time, airports continue to be a prime target for theft and other criminal activity. Airports are looking to step up and use technology to provide a better layer of protection."

Boyce concurs, noting that YVR's system provides ancillary benefits beyond its main mission of enhancing security for airlines, passengers, cargo companies and employees: "Operationally, it provides a holistic insight as to the various activities taking place on the airfield at any given time - security-related or not."

After managing the switch to YVR's new integrated system, Boyce encourages airports considering similar systems to examine and understand their own business requirements, seek input from their airside experts, research available technological options, and understand how various systems are used in an airport environment with standard operating procedures.

Other Security Enhancements

YVR has also invested in automated gates to help control security at critical airside and groundside locations throughout the airport. All of the Wallace International gates the airport has purchased in the last few years can be integrated into its new perimeter security system, notes Kevin Frain, project manager at Wallace. 

"The gates are equipped with high-speed, variable-frequency drive systems, the latest anti-tailgating technology and programmable logic controllers for easy integration into the overall perimeter security system," explains Frain.

Alpha Cantilever Sliding Gates were installed in front of on-field facilities for Purolator and FedEx as well as at the airport's southwest floatplane entrance. All three gates include integrated rack-and-pinion drives and are UL-325 listed.

Because Wallace uses modular construction, delivering and unloading the gates was "quick and simple," says Frain. The products also came with mounting posts and required hardware.

Trackless Bi-Folding SpeedGates, which feature an open/close cycle time of less than seven seconds, were installed at the airport's south guardhouse and at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) vehicle screening area.

SpeedGates help prevent tailgating and allow for fast movement of vehicles in or out of secure areas, Frain explains. The heavy-duty hinges that do most of the work have a lifetime warranty; the drive gearbox is sealed for life; and the gates require only 1.5 hours of service for every 10,000 cycles, he continues. "The UL-325 listed gates are factory-tested and pre-assembled before shipping, ensuring smooth on-site installation," adds Frain.

The SpeedGates at the guardhouse and CATSA screening area are equipped with traffic control barrier arms; the eight-lane CATSA entrance/exit screening area gate features touch-screen access control systems.


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