An Eye Under the Sky

UK airport faces fierce competition in the skies but is firmly planted in security applications

As the first low-cost airport in the United Kingdom, Coventry Airport offers flights to many locations for bargains. Since March 2004, the TUI subsidiary has been using the Coventry Airport—located in the heart of the English midlands—as the ideal center for low-cost flights to 17 European cities. The German low-cost airline Hapag- Lloyd Express also flies out of Coventry.

In the face of fierce competition, Coventry Airport keeps its operational costs so low that airlines can offer their flights at competitive prices. This means the infrastructure at Coventry Airport is not as luxurious as that found at other major airports. However, the passengers are glad to give up some luxury in order to save money.

High Security
Despite the cost savings, security at the Coventry Airport does not fall short. Especially with the threat of international terrorism, security at Coventry receives highest priority. To meet the need for high security, Coventry Airport selected MOBOTIX IP cameras for its video surveillance system. This system is not only praised by the Ministry of Transport, but it also serves as a model for other airports

Since Sept. 11, 2001, additional airport security measures have been put in place by the Department of Transport.

“At Coventry Airport, we have further improved our security measures with the installation of CCTV,” said Mike Morton, director of customer service at Coventry. “To be sure, we keep an eye on our passengers from check-in to boarding and also upon arrival—the entire time they are on the airport premises.”

But how does an airport implement such tight surveillance? The original video system—six analog cameras with six recorders—proved unsuitable to fulfill the task.

“The analog video technology is too expensive and awkward, and the image quality is not sufficient,” Morton said. “This was enough reason for us to look for a better alternative.”

All research led to IP cameras; soon it was clear that the digital network cameras from MOBOTIX, a German manufacturer, were the ideal solution for Coventry.

“The cameras include internal memory and can temporarily store the video sequences in the case of server failure,” said Dilip Mistry, security administrator at Coventry. “When there is disturbance on the network, it is no problem to access the camera storage. When the server is again available, it is automatically updated.”

The cabling also was easier to implement with the IP cameras because they needed no extra power lines, using power from the data cables.

“Also, the data communication is exemplary,” Mistry said. “This way, we can theoretically connect from anywhere over VPN to the subnetwork, with necessary authorization, to see the requested images. In addition, the IP cameras are stable and robust as well as easy to install and upgrade.”

Expressive Images
With so many advantages, it is no surprise that the relatively small Coventry Airport has at least 26 IP cameras in action. Seven of these are megapixel cameras with zoom function that deliver expressive images from far distances, such as the parking area, the check-in and the departure hall. All the cameras are arranged in appropriate sequence, with images transferred from each location that the passenger walks through: check-in, security check, passport control, departure hall and boarding gate. Luggage checking also is kept under surveillance, just like the arrival hall baggage claim.

The multiview application makes it all possible. All images are observed in a control room through an Internet browser 24/7. The multiview function allows simultaneous viewing of all transferred images, as well as an exact, closer look at each camera perspective.

The recording function of the cameras is equally important since the right images of events must be readily available. According to the law, these video sequences must be stored for 30 days. However, it would be a waste of expensive hard drive space to have data from all 26 cameras saved 30 days. For this reason, the cameras record only when something in a clearly definable image zone moves.

The camera at the check-in counter, for example, records an image every 90 seconds. This is sufficient, since a passenger spends two minutes, on average, at this counter.

With control in mind, a surveillance system that doesn’t miss anything was put to work at the Coventry Airport. Each passenger—in the interest of flight security— is registered at all important locations during their stay at the airport.

A Model of Security
“Even the British Ministry of Transport is impressed by this solution,” Morton said.

The camera surveillance system serves as a model for other security projects still to come.

“London Heathrow airport is planning on a new terminal. A short while ago, a colleague from there came to visit us to see our IP camera solution,” Morton said. “The railway company Central Trains and the British Telecom also are interested in our surveillance system.” Peter McKee is the international marketing director of MOBOTIX.

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