Munich Airport Rolls Out Thermal Camera Technology
Munich Airport, officially named Franz Josef Strauss Airport, is located 28 kilometers northeast of Munich, Germany. Munich Airport is
the second busiest airport in Germany in terms of passenger traffic (34.5 million in 2008), after Frankfurt International Airport.
It is the seventh largest in Europe, and ranks number 28 on the list of busiest airports worldwide.
Within just a few years, Munich Airport has become
one of the major European aviation hubs. It is a driving
force for jobs and growth within the region. And Munich
Airport is preparing to expand even further. In order to
increase the capacity from 90 to 120 flights
per hour, a third runway is planned.
In 2008, for the fourth year in a row, Munich Airport has
been named the winner of the "Best Airport in Europe"
award in an international survey of 8.2 million passengers
worldwide. The annual survey, conducted by
Skytrax, an independent, London-based aviation market
research firm, is the largest international customer survey
of airport quality standards.
Passengers also ranked Munich number five in the
worldwide rankings behind Asian hubs Hong Kong
International Airport, Singapore Changi, Seoul Incheon
and Kuala Lumpur airports in the Skytrax World Airport
Something that is probably not considered by
passengers that are passing through Munich airport and
filling out a survey, is safety. Travelers consider it to be
obvious that an airport is a site where all necessary safety
and security precautions are taken.
“Passenger that are passing through Munich airport do
not only need to feel safe, they have to be safe,” said Dominik Edlbauer, product manager of video surveillance at
Munich Airport. “In order to achieve this we do not only
have the necessary security personnel, such as walking
patrols, in place. We also have installed a complete CCTV
network. All together more than 1,000 cameras are
monitoring critical areas of the airport. Cameras are not
only installed inside the airport. We are also monitoring
activities that are taking place on the outside perimeter
of the airport. A giant area, since Munich Airport covers a
surface of 1,560 hectares.
“If people try to gain unauthorized access, we want to be
warned as early as possible. Therefore we are monitoring
the outside perimeter of the entire airport. Although
there is a fence going around it, we want to see what is
happening as well. If someone wants to climb over or cut
the fence, we need to know this immediately so that we
can take the necessary actions to intercept the intruder
Seeing what is happening with CCTV cameras is not a
problem most of the time during daytime. But during the
night, or in bad weather conditions it becomes a different
story. CCTV cameras need light to produce an image.
“The outside fences of the airport run parallel with
the runways,” Edlbauer said. “The only points where we have light are
some gates which can be used for emergency services
if necessary. On both sides, this outside perimeter is a
straight line of about 6 kilometers each.”
Installing lights to illuminate 12 kilometers of fence line
is an expensive exercise. Costly civil works need to be
carried out. Powering and maintaining the lights can
even be more expensive. And at an airport, even other
factors come into play.
Light amplification, also referred to as I2 technology,
amplifies small amounts of visible light thousands of
times so that objects can be seen at night. These systems
scan an area and amplify the available ambient light to
produce an image.
Light amplification does require a certain level of ambient
light, but even starlight can produce an image on a
cloudless night. A high-end image intensified camera
can produce outstanding images on a clear moonlit
night. Because the system requires at least a minimum
level of ambient light, conditions such as heavy overcast
can limit its effectiveness. Similarly, too much light may
overwhelm the system and reduce its effectiveness.
“And that is exactly what happened here at Munich
Airport,” Edlbauer said. “When airplanes were
landing or taking-off, their landing lights were disturbing
the light amplification.
“When the light amplification system was ready for
replacement, we decided to explore the market for other
technologies as well. This is how we discovered thermal
Thermal imaging needs no light whatsoever to operate.
It produces a clear image in the darkest of nights. In
practically all weather conditions.
“We got in contact with Stephan Horvath from Dekom Security,
a German distributor of FLIR Systems thermal imaging
cameras for security applications, who demonstrated
the system,” Edlbauer said.
“The solution for Munich Airport was fairly simple,”
Horvath said. “The thermal imaging cameras
needed to guard a straight six-kilometer line. One on each
side of the airport. We opted for the SR-100. This FLIR
Systems thermal imaging camera has excellent range
performance and is able to detect a man-sized target at a
distance of about 1.6 kilometers.”
“The FLIR Systems SR-100 presented itself as a good
solution for our problem. It presents an excellent
combination of range performance, image quality
and price. In order to make sure that no threat goes
undetected we decided to install FLIR Systems SR-100
thermal imaging cameras at each side of the airport,”
“The SR-100 thermal imaging cameras have been
installed, together with a CCTV camera, on a pan/tilt.
This way we can look wherever we want. We seamlessly
switch between de daylight and thermal camera. During
daylight we are using the CCTV cameras. In low light
conditions and in total darkness we switch to the SR-100
thermal imaging camera.”
Although they are mainly used in darkness, thermal
imaging cameras are very useful during daylight as well.
Potential intruders that are trying to hide in shadows
are seamlessly detected by thermal imaging cameras.
Thermal contrast is also extremely difficult to mask.
People that are trying to camouflage themselves become
clearly visible on a thermal image.
“The images produced by the SR-100 are going over fiber
optic cable to the control room,” Edlbauer said. “We can control the pan/
tilt and look at the images on every screen or on the
video wall. If a threat is detected we can take immediate
Just like at any major airport, assuring the safety of
passengers, planes and their crew, airport staff and any
other person that comes to the airport is a priority at
Munich Airport. FLIR Systems thermal imaging cameras
help to make sure that no threat goes undetected.