An Eye Under the Sky
UK airport faces fierce competition in the skies but is firmly planted in security applications
- By Peter McKee
- Jul 01, 2008
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 Thomsonfly.com 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.
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
“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.”
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
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
Peter McKee is the international
marketing director of MOBOTIX.