By Laurence Smith, Executive at Graphic Image Technologies
Unfortunately, South Africa has recently seen a spate of follow-home robberies making headlines in in the news. These cases saw foreign travellers followed when leaving OR Tambo International airport and robbed at gunpoint. In addition, other airports have seen in-house luggage theft, passengers suspected of terrorism and even syndicate that rob aircraft of valuables such as cash whilst is grounded. This highlights the need for effective Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance throughout airports. However, airports are busy places with thousands of people arriving and departing. So, what do airports need to do in order to ensure that their passengers, employees and businesses are safe?
Feeling the turbulence from the get-go
It should come as no surprise that implementing an effective CCTV surveillance system for airport security is easier said than done, as airports are by their very nature complicated. The fact that airports are physically spread out over wide areas with multiple levels and different zones, does nothing to simplify the situation. Neither does the fact that airport operations need to stick to a tight schedule. With flights constantly landing and taking off, passengers need to be serviced quickly and their luggage processed swiftly and securely to make it to the correct destination at the correct time. Logistics must be carefully managed, as any problems could cause flight delays that cost large sums of money. In short, there’s little room for error in airport security operations which is why getting video surveillance right has become so critical.
Since no two airports are the same, it’s difficult to generalise as to what kind of video surveillance would work best. Each CCTV design has to evaluate the risk areas and determine the level of imaging detail that is required to accomplish the task at hand. For example, in order to protect the extensive airport perimeter and vast airport hangars, thermal cameras with analytics would be most effective. These thermal cameras do not require light to operate, nor is their operation affected by the weather. When combined with the right lens, thermal cameras offer a much better range than conventional cameras which means that fewer devices are required to gain sight over a larger area. These thermal cameras run powerful analytics software that is capable of differentiating between humans and animals, producing fewer false positives and integrating with an alert system that triggers the control room to dispatch the appropriate security response.
Ramp-up imaging detail and get a direct view
In other airport zones, like baggage handling areas, passenger terminals and pre-boarding security checkpoints, a greater level of imaging detail is required. Where the volumes of people are high, better resolution is required in order for CCTV to be effective and that’s where UHD cameras, ultra-high definition, or ‘4K’ cameras come into play. Because the 4K camera has the ability to deliver additional resolution above a standard camera (up to four times more detail at full 25fps than today’s top full HD 1080p cameras and legacy 10MP cameras), it is possible to electronically zoom in to areas of the picture without losing detail making these cameras ideal for airport surveillance and especially useful for post-event playback. A well designed Video Management Systems (VMS) and 4K cameras will allow for unique adaptive streaming of these cameras while keeping the bandwidth usage low.
Hit the tarmac running - It's all about your approach
The fact that video surveillance technology has steadily become more powerful, accessible and cost-effective means that there is no justification for an airport that lacks an intelligent, responsive and up-to-date video surveillance system. This is not to say that airport operating companies should feel pressured to constantly upgrade their surveillance hardware and software, but rather to ensure that the technology utilised is the correct fit for its application at that time. Technology upgrades are only necessary if there is an immediate benefit to be obtained, as the case would be where an airport was upgrading cameras from analogue or 1080p cameras to 4K cameras with analytics.
However, airports are likely to benefit from recent developments in the field of surveillance imaging technology. Thermal imaging technology has been combined with conventional visual cameras into a single unit, strengthened with video analytics to produce a powerful surveillance device capable of rendering a thermal image and triggering LEDs when visual cameras are required and the ambient light is insufficient. These cameras are eagerly anticipated in all video surveillance applications and they’re likely to have a great impact on the efficacy of outdoor or wide space surveillance.
Thank you to the eye in the sky
It is thanks to CCTV footage provided by the airport that many criminals are apprehended by the police each year, proving how invaluable CCTV is in helping to identify the suspects involved in criminal behaviour. In addition, with rising crime statistics and an increasing fear of global terrorism, it has now become more important than ever for airport operating companies to ensure that a proficient, modern CCTV surveillance setup forms the foundation of their airport security strategy.