Fiber Optic Intrusion Detection System Helps Protect Texas Airport

In mid-2009, a fiber optic intrusion detection system was installed on McAllen-Miller International Airport's perimeter fence. The system, known as Secure Fence, was developed by Future Fibre Technologies and, one year on, the airport's security department reports the system has performed impressively.

According to Donald "Buck" Taft, airport security coordinator at McAllen-Miller International Airport, the intrusion detection system was installed in response to security concerns over the number of commercial flights and the airport's proximity to Mexico.

"Overall, the Secure Fence system has provided an excellent enhancement to the physical security at McAllen-Miller International Airport," Taft said. The solution is cost effective and ideally suited to airport perimeter protection because of its ability to detect the location of intrusions anywhere on the airport's entire perimeter.

"Installation was extremely quick and simple -- the vendor simply zip-tied the cable onto the fence and connected it to a single head end controller in a central location. It took around two weeks to install and required very little construction, just a few hand holes for fiber splices along the fence."

The Secure Fencesystem consists of a single pass of fiber optic cable along the fence fabric for the entire protected perimeter. This passive sensor required no maintenance and is completely immune to EMI, RFI and lightning.

"MFE has a five mile perimeter and the Secure Fence(TM) system map identifies the event location with user-defined zones along with the GPS co-ordinates," Taft said.

The McAllen-Miller International Airport is located in the center of Texas' Rio Grand Valley, close to the U.S.-Mexican border.

"The Rio Grande Valley is located at the southern tip of Texas and is subject to heavy winds, high humidity and extremely hot temperatures," Taft said. “In fact, hurricanes and tropical storms have hit the area three times in the year and a half since Secure Fence was installed. In spite of these extreme weather conditions, the perimeter protection system has operated successfully without nuisance or false alarms.

"The system features a rain mitigation algorithm that accurately detects the location of an intrusion, regardless of weather conditions. The system has transformed the standard chain link fence surrounding the airport into an intelligent sensor that detects intruders automatically."

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