Intruder Alert - Since 9/11, airport and aviation security has generally been terminal centric with increased checkpoint screening for passengers and air cargo, increased protection of the flight deck with both physical security and air marshals to secure planes while in flight.

Intruder Alert

Why hi-definition and thermal network cameras are crucial for airport perimeter security

Since 9/11, airport and aviation security has generally been terminal centric with increased checkpoint screening for passengers and air cargo, increased protection of the flight deck with both physical security and air marshals to secure planes while in flight. Given these high security measures and what passengers experience at TSA checkpoints and throughout terminals, it may surprise you to learn just how vulnerable airport perimeters may be. While there’s no question that airports work hard to secure their perimeters, the sheer size of some airports and the historical technology deployed to protect them have led to some serious gaps in airport security.


The sad reality is that perimeter breaches aren’t a rare occurrence for airports. For example, in April 2015, there was a perimeter breach at San Jose International Airport, their fifth occurrence in less than a year. Unfortunately, the breach only added to the ever-growing list of high-profile intrusions at airports around the world.

An Associated Press investigation found 268 perimeter breaches at 31 major airports since 2004. This number represents only a fraction of the incidents because Boston’s Logan Airport and New York City’s three major airports refused to release any information citing security concerns. In addition, these statistics don’t include smaller airports or those that had incomplete data.

The TSA data is even more disturbing, stating there were 1,388 breaches at 450 U.S. airports between 2001 and 2011. Collectively, this data highlights how critical the need for accurate, dependable intrusion detection system is.

In October 2015, the Russian Metrojet 9268 tragedy in Egypt raised worldwide awareness to the importance of tightening security measures around airport erimeters and ramp operations.

As airports search for solutions, one tool that keeps coming to the forefront is network video surveillance. As versatile perimeter protection systems they continually monitor activity in and around the premises providing airports cost-effective protection of assets, staff and passengers.


Video surveillance systems, on the other hand, provide a more holistic approach to perimeter detection and verification that rarely yields false alarms. There is generally no better way to validate a physical sensor than with an image from a camera. New, more cost-effective thermal imaging cameras offer additional benefits for airport perimeter environments. Automated detect-track-notify solutions, enabled by recent advances in camera hardware and video analytics software, further improves effectiveness by enhancing real-time situational awareness and response capability.


The first goal in perimeter protection is to detect a threat or an intrusion at the earliest possible stage. One of the best early warning tools is a modern thermal network camera. Unrivaled in detection sensitivity and accuracy, this technology is ideal as a first line of defense. Thermal cameras do not require any light at all to operate. They are able to spot a person or an object by the thermal radiation they emit.

Today’s HDTV and megapixel-resolution network cameras make facial identification or license plate recognition possible even at great distances. Special lowlight technology that reduces noise and maintains full color fidelity even in very dark conditions greatly enhances recognition and identification of people, vehicles and critical incident details.

Operators can use remotely operated PTZs and well-placed fixed cameras to track the whereabouts of intruders while guiding an employee or a guard patrol to intercept the trespasser. The archived video of the intruder’s movements and activities can then be used as irrefutable evidence for detention and prosecution.


Misinterpreting alarms raises all sorts of problems when it comes to airport perimeter protection. With judicious use of advanced network camera surveillance, coupling hi-definition PTZ and fixed cameras with thermal cameras and video analytics, airports can not only detect possible intruders far earlier than before, but can also verify the extent and severity of a breach and provide essential situational awareness to initiate an appropriate and effective response.

Nutkamol komolvanich /

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Anthony Incorvati is the manager of business development, transportation, at Axis Communications.


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