In August, a stranded jet-skier scrambled across a fence at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, walked past a $100 million system of video cameras and motion detectors, crossed two runways and penetrated well into Delta Air Lines' Terminal 3 before a keen-eyed employee wondered why a passenger should be wearing a wetsuit.

Heated debates about “the surveillance society” notwithstanding, technology has been slow to provide a cost-effective, full-time way to monitor an airport, a big energy facility or similar large-area targets. Day and infrared cameras have narrow fields of view, so you need many of them, and need either human operators or automatic target-detection systems to pick up intruders—neither being very reliable. Motion and intrusion sensors tend to have high false-alarm rates.

Flir Systems Inc. has now unveiled a range of multi-sensor surveillance packages that aim to provide wide-area, high-resolution and automated target detection, tracking and identification from a single installation. These have grown out of Flir's 2010 acquisition of ICX, which had specialized in ground surveillance radars and security systems.

On show at the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington in October were two new Flir products: a mobile system for border protection and a transportable unit deployed in Afghanistan. Flir is in discussions with “about 20” major airports worldwide about permanently installed systems using the same technology.

The company is building 33 MSC-450 (Mobile Surveillance Capability) systems for the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for the Southwest U.S. border, with deliveries to be completed early next year. Mounted on a Ford F450 truck and designed for a single operator, it combines the company's own radar and a multi-spectral sensor ball. Flir has designed a hinged extending mast, which the company considers more stable than a vehicle-mounted telescoping mast. The system can run for 13 hr. on batteries and for five days without refueling.

The containerized Combat Outpost Surveillance and Force Protection System (COS-FPS, known to its operators as the Kraken) carries higher-end equipment including an Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-Elta Ground Master radar and Flir Star Safire 380HD turret, and is linked to unattended ground sensors, two hostile-fire-detection sensors (which can pinpoint fire even if it is not aimed at the unit) and two remotely operated weapon systems. It has its own 5-kw. generator. Three Krakens are operational in Afghanistan and eight more are scheduled to be delivered early next year.

The most important features of both the Kraken and MSC-450 are radar performance and sensor and data fusion. Flir's newest radars use frequency modulated continuous wave (FMCW) technology to pinpoint moving targets out of ground clutter, which the company has adopted because it handles slow movers—walking people—better than Doppler. Fine-movement tracking also shows where the targets are headed. IAI-Elta claims a range accuracy of 1-2 meters (3.3-6.6 ft.) and an azimuth accuracy of 2-5 milliradians, providing high confidence that the target on radar is the target on which the telephoto lens of the imaging turret has been cued. These radars have a range of about 10-15 km (0.6-9.3 mi.) against dismounts. Using data fusion, target locations and tracks can be superimposed on digital maps, and the operator can look at a high-resolution image and classify a target as friendly or suspicious.

The fact that radars are now quite good at detecting and locating small, slow-moving ground targets (which was technologically not easy), combined with IR sensors that can get clear images at compatible ranges, makes these systems useful for airports or other sites, Flir executives suggest. They can alert automatically when moving targets cross perimeters or limit lines (for example, most airport vehicles and people are not allowed outside the ramp area), maintain track files on authorized movers and classify targets by size. A single tower-mounted system with one or two operators can cover an entire site.

Across the airport industry there is recognition that a smarter use of technology is essential to combine security with efficiency. One analogy is that airport security has become a giant “club sandwich” with yet another layer added by legislators in response to every security incident. The result is unpalatable and indigestible for airport management, airport security and travelers.

Airport authorities realize this security club sandwich must be scrapped and a holistic approach taken instead. “There is a rising need for integration of security solutions, to improve situational awareness and to respond to security threats in more efficient ways,” explains Marco Scarpa, strategy and business development manager for Thales Italy, the group's center of competence for airport security.

TAM—total airport management—is the watchword. “This current differentiation between airside and landside will go in the future and be replaced by TAM,” Martin Olsson, Saab's director of airport security solutions, tells Aviation Week, while Gillian Ormiston, global market manager for border control for Morpho, part of France's Safran group, concurs, commenting that the current “one size fits all” security approach is inefficient in time and space.

She explains that “any project involving [airport] security affects a lot of stakeholders,” from the airport to the airlines via the police and customs among many others. Scarpa points out that “all stakeholders need to be able to share the information but you need to ensure that the right information is reaching the right people at the right time.” He says the information gathered by a large airport's “many thousands” of closed circuit video recorders in place for security management and to monitor queues “could be shared.”

This information-sharing is at the heart of Saab's Safe software, introduced two years ago. It is now installed at Stockholm's Arlanda and Bromma airports, which have already achieved a 29% reduction in security costs. “In a couple of years Safe will be installed in 10 airports in Sweden and they will all be controlled from command centers in Gothenburg or Arlanda,” Olsson says. He emphasizes that the software can be integrated into airports' existing hardware.

Airport managers today want intelligent video surveillance that alerts operators to abandoned objects, people crossing virtual boundaries and so on. This has been demonstrated extensively by several companies, including Saab: Moving video targets are tracked and the record continues when they stop, and if a target splits into two, an operator is alerted. “There is no single solution to fit every airport; the technological bricks are standard but there is a huge need for customization,” Scarpa says. Olsson concurs: “These are not off-the-shelf products; they are all customized and scalable.”

Solutions offered by Saab and Thales have the same aim: sharing information among all stakeholders so that not only do they have a common situational picture but also that communication is quicker and easier. In addition, the systems provide workflow management that improves operational performance and efficiency, which in turn provide a better experience for travelers. Management is not just about security—the same tools can be used to detect congestion and alert staff to problems.

Using biometric technology to identify and screen passengers is growing worldwide. “What we're working on is a platform from check-in to boarding with risk assessment on passenger data and the use of biometrics moving to a more traveler-friendly process,” Ormiston says. Passengers would be identified biometrically and the boarding pass would be done away with, “but this is not going to happen overnight.”

Biometric technology has been used in Israel for several years, as a complement to the human side of security. At airports, travelers are subjected to probing personal questions as screeners look them in the eye for signs of deception. Searches are meticulous, with screeners often scrutinizing every item in a bag. Advanced technology is an add-on.

Recently developed is Unipass, which combines advanced biometric identification with automatic passport authentication. It was a joint effort by Israel Airports Authority and Bendertech Technologies.

More advanced Israeli-developed biometrics include the technology developed by IDesia Biometrics, acquired in August by Intel. IDesia, founded by CEO Daniel Lange and Yossef Gross, uses an electrical signal generated by the heartbeat to create an “electro-biodynamic signature” unique to every individual, establishing a biometric identity that cannot be forged. The product only requires contact between the finger of the person being checked and a small metal sensor, and can be used at airports and border crossings as well as to access personal electronic equipment.

Another solution claimed to provide rigorous security scanning without physical checks is under development by WeCU Technologies Ltd. of Israel. This detects whether a person has malicious or deceptive intentions. WeCU technology can screen an individual in seconds, without his or her knowledge. It can identify subjects who are not carrying suspicious objects, do not demonstrate suspicious behavior and do not fit a predefined social or other profile, and with no a priori information as to the subject.

WeCU seeks to identify concealed intentions by uncovering an associative connection between the subjects and defined threats. WeCU is claimed to be able to identify people who have involvement in a defined threat, in a screening that takes only 15-30 sec. Based on a unique probing method that uses knowledge from the behavioral sciences with advanced biometric sensors, the system performs a fast and covert test procedure, which does not interfere with routine activities and crowd flow at the protected site.