7 Steps to Leveraging Perimeter Security Technology

This article is written for Airport Professionals who see promise in technology to automate airport safety and security, but are reluctant to be an early adopter because of the perceived and real business risks. My company, Security Radar Integrators, Inc. (SRI), specializes in radar/video systems for airport safety and security, and as such, we’ll use this technology as an example of leveraging airport perimeter security and how to avoid the business risks of a technology upgrade.

It’s intuitive that a long-range radar coupled with a long-range camera and some smart software would be an ideal way to provide 24/7 coverage of a perimeter and airfield areas. Such a system would alert on perimeter intrusions, wildlife hazards, and runway incursions. The software would be smart enough to only alert on real issues, making the system a force multiplier and reducing workload. That’s the vision, but what about the business risk? What if you purchased such a system that didn’t perform as advertised? What if you didn’t receive adequate support? How would you integrate it with your existing systems? Fortunately, this area of technology has matured substantially in the last 5 years, and by following these 7 steps you can take advantage of this type of system without the business risks.

1. Use an Airfield Radar System That Has Been Widely Adopted
For its Airfield Radar System (ARS), SRI uses a radar sensor manufactured by Navtech Radar, based in the UK. Navtech has been developing high resolution radars since 1999, and has become the best in the world at doing just that. Over 400 Navtech radars are deployed worldwide for security and traffic applications. In 2009, Navtech began selling its radar systems to airports in Europe for safety and security, and have completed 23 airport deployments to date. This is several times more than any other radar manufacturer, and includes some of Europe’s largest airports, like Brussels and Copenhagen. Until recently, Navtech radar sensors were blocked for use in the US by the FCC, but a recent FCC rule change now allows them in US airports with no license required.
Anticipating the FCC rule change, SRI selected Navtech for our Airfield Radar System, and it’s now being adopted by US airports. After field trials at many airports including Atlanta, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Tampa, and 3 independent evaluations for the FAA by Safe Skies Alliance, the system is being procured by a number of large US commercial airports. Although there have been other radar projects at US and European airports, no other system has seen the rapid adoption rates of the SRI and Navtech systems.

2. Favor a Turn-Key System Over an Integration Project
Airports and system integrators have at times selected individual components to build an integrated system, and have run into cost and schedule overruns and spent thousands of hours troubleshooting and fixing problems. While it’s not rocket science, radar integration requires specialized experience that doesn’t make sense for airports and system integrators to develop in-house. SRI’s approach to building Airfield Radar Systems is to leverage our 15 years of security radar experience in standardizing, producing, and testing turn-key systems at our facility, and delivering a system we can power up on the first day. SRI’s ARS also has built-in integrations to video management and other systems, and we have standard interface protocols that make it easy for us to tie into new systems. Using this turn-key approach largely eliminates the integration risk of a radar system.

3. Use a Partner that has Experience with Multiple Radar Manufacturers
Radar manufacturers tend to recommend their own products for obvious reasons. While they may all have the right tool for some applications, they do not all have the right tool for airports. SRI has 15 years’ experience delivering systems with many different radars into different applications, primarily airports, but also seaports, industrial plants, power plants, and offshore platforms. This experience has familiarized us with the spectrum of radar designs and brands, and uniquely positions us to select the right equipment for airports. Even large system integrators may have experience with a particular radar, and recommend it because that’s what they are familiar with. If you work with a system integrator to build a system for you, make sure they are aware of the complete market offerings and what the tradeoffs are.

4. Ask Your Consultants to do Some Research
There are a handful of consulting firms that SRI works with regularly and that have a very good understanding of the strengths and limitations of radar systems in an airport application. There are also many that are not familiar with the current offerings in the market. With the substantial investment of a security upgrade being designed by a consulting company, it is imperative that they come up to speed with the current market offerings, and can explain to you what the tradeoffs are. This eliminates the risk that a year after you complete an expensive security upgrade, you learn that there was a more effective and less expensive approach.

5. Take Advantage of the Work Done by Safe Skies Alliance
Safe Skies Alliance, Inc. is a company that specializes in independent evaluations of airport security technology for the FAA. Their evaluations are extensive, and often last for weeks or months. Safe Skies has evaluated about 80 airport perimeter security technologies in the past 5 years, and for each of these evaluations a free report is available to Security Coordinators for US commercial airports. These reports include 10 different radar evaluations, including 3 of SRI’s Airfield Radar System. The most current SRI report can be requested by emailing karen.downing@sskies.org (please reference Report Number: SSDA—16-040).

6. Make Sure You have a Sustainable Support Model
Working with a partner like SRI ensures that when your team has a question, they can go right to the source for the answer. We’ve all seen projects where after the project is complete, the key personnel get assigned to the next project and you’ve lost your support. At SRI, this is all we do. Since we sell a turn-key system, our support team members can support all our installations, even if they didn’t deploy yours. And as an extra layer of protection, SRI purchases a gold support plan from Navtech for every radar we sell, even though we seldom use it. Our goal is that they never get a call from our customers, but it’s an insurance policy for the customer that further reduces the risk of support.

7. Understand the Attributes of Products Best Suited for Your Application
In my last article, “Selecting a Ground Radar for Airport Security”, we explored in detail the five attributes of a radar system that make it best suited for airport security. It doesn’t take long to read, and it’s not overly technical. As with most products, much of the detail can be boiled down to a few key points that determine the success of the system. By becoming familiar with these key points, you’ll be well positioned to engage with consultants, integrators, and manufacturers, and test their understanding of the topic. Following is the summary from that article:

Of the many complex features and design attributes of different radars, making these five simple tradeoffs correctly will help ensure the success of your security radar project.

Spread Beam Versus Narrow Beam: Spread Beam – Better coverage across the entire site, can see over obstructions and into dips

Rotating Versus Fixed: Rotating – Complete coverage, fewer radars, simpler installation and better value for money

High Frequency Versus Low Frequency: High Frequency – Higher resolution, better detection near ground obstacles (i.e. trees, buildings etc.), and lower false alarm rate

FMCW Versus Doppler: FMCW – Better detection of targets moving in all directions, including when stationary

Processing Software: C2 with Fully Automated Surveillance – Intelligent assessment of target behavior to notify operator only when necessary

Innovating with technology in aviation requires more consideration than in other industries because of the conservative, safety first culture we must have. But with technology advancing faster every year, it also means we must work harder to not be left behind. By organizing the information and experience we have in these 7 steps, this article shows us a low risk path to improving our safety and security using proven technologies that are available to us now.
Daniel Flynn, President
Security Radar Integrators, Inc.
(321) 427-8873