Airport Video Surveillance Guide

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jun 30, 2015, 12:00am EDT

This 20-page guide explains the key uses, design factors, and players in the Airport Surveillance market.

A global group of 40 integrators and consultants with airport project experience responded, each offering insights in selling, implementing, and maintaining airport video surveillance systems.

This is a continuation in our vertical specific survey series. Others include: 

Questions Answered

In this survey, we share insights on these aspects of airport surveillance systems:

(1) Most Common Camera Locations

(2) PTZ vs. Fixed Cameras Usage

(3) Most Common Camera Manufacturers

(4) Most Common VMSes Deployed

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(5) Video Analytics Usage / Obstacle

(6) Hardwired vs Wireless Networking

(7) Storage Types Selected

(8) Common Camera Resolutions

(9) Most Common System Integrations

(10) Primary Surveillance Goals

(11) Primary System Users

(12) Sources of Purchase & Maintenance Funding

(13) System Specifications Writers and Issues

(14) Biggest Surveillance Improvement Needed

The list below summarizes the key finding and patterns found:

  1. Camera Locations: Airport video coverage is often extensive, and the goal is typically covering as much area as possible. However, the priority from most to least was: Entryways, Perimeter Boundaries, Security Checkpoints, Departure Gates, Baggage Claims, and Flight line/Tarmac areas.
  2. Camera Usage: Airports primarily used fixed cameras (~75% of cameras), but wide spaces with highly transient traffic (food courts or terminals), use PTZs (~25%).
  3. Network: Airports overwhelmingly used hard wired networks, citing reliability and security as primary drivers. However, wireless sometimes is used for runways or apron areas where running cable is cost prohibitive or operationally disruptive, such as trenching runways.
  4. Integration: Electronic access control is typically integrated with video, for the purpose of enhancing visibility for remote or isolated access points into controlled areas.
  5. Users: Airports generally employ manned surveillance operators who actively monitor video feeds and help dispatch resources appropriately. However, in many cases the number of operators is deemed too small to maximize the potential benefit of existing surveillance systems.
  6. Cameras / VMSes: Higher-end premium brands are common, undoubtedly due to the high visibility of airport projects and eager involvement of industry majors.  For VMS selection especially, selections were concentrated among a few larger brands, unlike the heavily fragmented choices typical to Schools or SMB verticals.
  7. Camera Resolution: Overall, airports are shifting to HD / multimegapixel cameras, which many citing the 'sweetspot' between 1080p and 5MP resolutions. However, many airports have older systems and limited resources, forcing them to continue with SD analog cameras.
  8. Analytics: Video analytics for airport deployments is low.  License plate recognition is the most common analytic used while other types only occasionally adopted with mixed results.
  9. Storage: Even if sophisticated redundancy or storage utilities are preferred, direct attached or even local recorder storage is commonplace with enhancements to storage utility receiving low budget priority for many systems.
  10. Specifications: When written by consultants, as is the most frequent case, the end result is generally positive. However, when the spec is written by a general A&E firm, the results are generally poor.
  11. Funding: In general, funding flows from the top down, with most receiving funding from national departments or municipal operator allocations.  Smaller airports or surveillance systems may be supported from operating budgets of individual airport departments.
  12. Improvements:  Getting video analytics that work was the biggest potential improvement from respondents, however airports using older cameras and with understaffed live monitor operators said improving those fundamental aspects were a more fundamental need.

Camera Locations

Question: What are the most common locations to deploy airport cameras? Why? What are they used for?

Summary: Airport surveillance is widespread. Several comments suggest that surveillance coverage areas are limited only by budget; and if the money is available, every square inch of area would be covered.  The basic use was multi-faceted, summarized by comments typical to this:

"[Video Surveillance is] used for general surveillance, anti-terrorism, reducing manpower deployed on the field, automatic screening of wanted people, detect suspicious behavior and people, situational awareness at gates and other areas around the airport, detect unauthorized access to restricted areas and record activity in restricted areas, monitor and detect abandoned objects, entrance and exit of parking facilities."

However, funding is almost always limited and results in a priority of specific areas above others.  The highest priority areas are given to public access points, like terminal entries and parking lot entrances.  The lowest priority areas are those behind secure checkpoints and limited access areas on the tightly secured flight line operations areas.

The sections below include response color for each area: 

Public Access and Perimeter Entry Points

  • "Entry and exit doors to the terminals to monitor passenger movements"
  • "Entrance/Exit areas - for identification, Perimeter fence - for recognition."
  • "Airport Perimeter: to monitor the perimeter and detect any illegal intrusion, threat, suspicious behavior or activity."
  • "All Access points. Man and Vehicular on Air side Public access areas"
  • "Entry/exit/security checkpoints. Ticket counters and passenger walkways. Parking areas."
  • "Anywhere the public has access; both sterile (secure) and non-sterile (non-secure) areas."
  • "The main boundaries of the airports like entrances or even fence gates is important."

Security Checkpoints

As expected, the spots within an airport specifically set up to screen passengers or verify identities also recieve a heavy priority for camera coverage:

  • "Checkpoints have the highest concentration of cameras to view people queued up at carry on baggage screening machines. Events sometimes materialize here. Also cameras to view doors with AOA access, as breaches here can carry fines and so events warrant review. "
  • "Waypoints where passengers declare themselves to Security or Gendarmerie is mandatory."
  • "TSA Checkpoints to watch how passengers are processed."
  • "The inspection areas staffed by TSA are video surveillance heavy. Many cameras in a small area."
  • "Always the screening areas.  Ever person needs to be captured, from any number of angles."
  • "Airport Operations Areas (or waterways that adjoin AOA) and TSA security checkpoints."
  • "Security checkpoints because they are first point of entry to terminals."

Departure Gates

The next tier of surveillance priorities fall to the gates that connect passengers in terminals to waiting aircraft. Verification of passengers entering or exiting airplanes, and confirming terminal occupants have passed security screening were cited as the primary goals:

  • "Surveillance of the gates is regulated by the TSA."
  • "Jet Bridges and adjoining waiting areas, to confirm manifests if needed."
  • "Cameras at each embarkation point.  This might include access doors to restricted areas."
  • "Many locations require identification quality video of everyone entering the terminal either from the land-side or deplaning."
  • "Gate Areas - general activity and ID at jetway."
  • "Obvious locations are of course at the gates/check-in."
  • "Keeping track of passengers at the gates helps confirm where they travel in the airport."

Baggage Claim and Freight Storage

Another key area is the spot where passengers pick up luggage or freight claim areas. The main concern for security in these spots are simply theft, unattended bags, or mishandling, and collecting video to help settle claims or identify thieves:

  • "On the terminal looking at the planes at the terminal and overview of the taxiways for operations."
  • "Baggage claim to monitor passengers and unattended baggage."
  • "Definitely baggage area for missing baggage tracking."
  • "Baggage areas to watch employees on how they handle bags."
  • "Mainly for tracking who did what to the bags in case people try to run false claims."
  • "Baggage claim areas that are open to the public. Why: looking for unauthorized access, suspicious activity, unattended bags"

Flightline/Tarmac Areas

Finally, controlled operational areas immediately outside the gates the involve airline or airport employees, their equipment, and even security of the parked planes themselves is commonly watched. However, many comments noted these areas are covered only as money remains after the 'public' areas are covered since security is higher due to access controls:

  • "On the terminal looking at the planes at the terminal and overview of the taxiways for operations."
  • "Apron to monitor traffic flows as well as critical infrastructure such as fuel dumps."
  • "Surprisingly, watching the airplanes outside or as they move and taxi is a priority."
  • "Runway for airplane and service vehicles."
  • "Terminal aprons can be very busy and cameras help identify people/vehicles that do not belong."
  • "The area around the jet bridges and the aprons."

PTZ vs. Fixed Cameras Percentage

Question: What percentage of cameras are fixed vs PTZ? Why? What drives that?

Summary: Unlike City Surveillance where PTZs are widespread, Airports use them much more infrequently. Most use them about 25% of the time, and only a few claiming greater than 40% PTZ use.

While many airports employe live operators, staffing levels are low, and many answers suggested the combo of high relative cost versus low operator availability means PTZ use is conservative in most airports: 

PTZs For Key Areas

Overall, the spots that do use PTZs are typically high traffic or high-interest ares where fixed cameras alone are too inflexible:

  • "10% PTZ, in public access areas PTZs are used for following persons by authorities"
  • "Fixed cameras still cover all areas, Additional PTZ's are deployed more densely to track/follow activity."
  • "80% fixed for consistent viewing PTZ in locations for following and tracking."
  • "Most of the cameras we've deployed are fixed cameras on the interior terminal areas, and PTZ on the outside/public drop-off areas. This allows the control center staff to track a vehicle, while behaviours inside the terminal are captured via fixed cameras."
  • "About 80% fixed and 20% PTZ (can vary) Fixed for fixed assets (e.g. AOA gates, check points, etc.) PTZ for general observation (e.g. intersection of gate hall ways and check in lobby)"

Adoption Limited By Cost

The key drawback preventing wider PTZ adoption was generally cost, in both terms of the additional operators needed to use them, and the relative cost of the camera itself:

  • "Almost a 99% percent are fixed. There is not enought staff to control PTZ."
  • "More fixed, for cost reasons."
  • "85% fixed. PTZs take too much man power."
  • "Around 25 % are PTZ due to amount of director operator control involved."

Typical Resolution Used

Question: What is the typical minimum resolution of airport cameras? Why not more/less?

Summary: While HD resolutions are desired and even 3MP, 5MP, or even higher resolutions common, many airports still rely heavily on SD or legacy analogy resolutions due to restrictive funding or existing technology constraints.

Legacy Analog

  • "All of the cameras are analog. No money in the County budget to upgrade at this time."
  • "Older airports continue to add to the existing system so if it is an analog system they add analog cameras."
  • "4 CIF. Legacy analog systems are still prevalent."
  • "Believe or not they still mixed some older analog and IP now. Budget issue usually hindering it and bad maintenance."
  • "The airports still have not completely recovered from 911 or the economy so money is still a major factor. I still see a majority of analog cameras running through encoders. The airports are wanting more 5 MP cameras on the exterior and 1MP at the gates."
  • "We see a lot of specs still written for CCTV resolutions.  Some of those cameras cost more than HD IP models."

720p/ 1080p

  • "All cameras are HD/FullHD. That kind of camera can give the best picture in all conditions."
  • "720 for general surveillance, higher for investigation, lower for purely motion use. Customer requirements for legislative reasons generally drive this."
  • "720p - Quantity of cameras + storage minimum."
  • "2mp, is the current bang for your buck sweet spot, while maintaining decent low light ability."
  • "1.3MP is the minimum that I've seen other than lower resolution thermal cameras. Less doesn't provide enough detail and considering the fact the customers typically flood large areas with multiple cameras viewing from various angles they really don't need to go much higher."
  • "New airports have been specifying full HD to optimize for detail/image quality and storage requirements."
  • "I've seen 640x480, but generally now it is a minimum 720p. They still operate under pretty strict budgets, and dont have millions to spend on storage."
  • "IMHO the new standard is 1080P - users expect this resolution. Higher for special cases - e.g. need wide field of view and identification of people."

3MP or Greater 

  • "Most are 5MP and under however in some cases we use larger for perimeter coverage with larger lens 10MP and up."
  • "3-5MP mainly due to cost and storage. They would like to have more in the future when it becomes more cost effective. More pixels is also desirable so they can get more and more details at the tail of the aircraft."
  • "More (resolution) is better, until you have to move it around. Bandwidth is more of an issue than storage."
  • "Indoors there are doors and other small areas using 720P/1MP cameras to 3/5MP cameras covering hallways and gate areas ( also many like multi-sensor products in these areas) Outside I see everything from 3MP to 29MP depending on the designer/owner."

Common Camera Manufacturers

Question: What camera manufacturers do you most often see in airport surveillance systems? Why they are chosen?

Summary: Mainstream, premium brands were commonly cited and in very few examples only one brand named. In general, brand selection follows the project size and budget, with larger systems more likely to use top-end brands and gear:

  • "Axis, Sony, Panasonic, Pelco, etc. They all have their airports to point to."
  • "Large airports have greater budgets than smaller ones thus the greater the system budget usually the quality of the end devices increases."
  • "Typically the high end manufacturers like AXIS, Arecont, Sony and Samsung. Individual models selected for based on form factor, Ultra-WDR or High MP resolution requirements."
  • "Avigilon, Pelco, Axis, Sony, and Flir. I would say these are typically chosen to due name recognigtion, marketing, and years in the business."
  • "Typical brand names such as Axis, Pelco, Bosch compete for the tenders making use of their existing large-scale domestic and international installations."
  • "Axis, Pelco and used to be VideoIQ. Safe going with big brands for first two, savvy end users like embedded video analytics of the third."
  • "Bosch, Axis, Sony, Pelco, Panasonic. They are chosen because of the relationship on the manufacturers with the decision makers in the airport. most manufacturers will comply to specs.  Most manufacturers will give any discount needed to get an airport project for the reference, so price and performance is not an issue."

Low-Cost Options

However, when cost is a factor, the traditional 'budget leaders' like Hikvision (crowned as a top choice in our Favorite SMB Video Surveillance Manufacturers report) quickly are mentioned:

  • "I see all types. Mostly chosen for costs and not quality. This to me is aprox 50% or more in my experience. "
  • "I believe HikVision and other lower costs ones will soon be used more. (Not sure if this is a good idea)"
  • "Geovision, Axis, Flir and others. It depends on the spec if cheap is allowed or a consultant blindly specifies Axis."
  • "We see Hikvision increasingly becoming popular."

Common VMSes Deployed

Question: What VMSes do you most often see in airport surveillance systems? Any idea why they are chosen?

Summary:  As with cameras, brand preferences did not fall to any one player, but unlike the Favorite SMB Video Surveillance and School Video Surveillance Guide results, answers generally stayed with well-know brands and did not reflect adoption of fringe or small players:

  • "We use Genetec and Milestone."
  • "Tier 1 manufacturers including Genetec, Milestone and OnSSI. The have the largest number of supported devices, best technical support, Enterprise-level features, strong integration with the major access control systems."
  • "The usual suspects: Genetec, OnSSI, Milestone."
  • "Milestone, Tyco, Genetec"
  • "Aimetis, Genetec and Milestone are the most widely used. they are chosen based on the past familiarity of the client with the product. all 3 have similar features more or less."
  • "Geovision, Milestone, Avigilon The newish trend of manufacturer's free VMS for their own cameras will have an impact here."
  • "Milestone, Genetec, Pelco, Avigilon. These manufactures have a good span of integrations supported and quality support teams."

Wireless or Fiber Networking Use

Question: What percentage of cameras are hard wired vs wireless? What drives that?

Summary:  Most responses measured wired adoption the clear majority, with many claiming 90% or above cameras connected with a cable due to greater reliability, better performance, and lower cost:

  • "100% hard wired, more reliable and more secure"
  • "We have only deployed wireless cameras where we were not able to physically cable the camera; a good example of this would be the de-icing ramp areas."
  • "90% hardwired, IP PoE because network is available. Wireless is used for the pole mounted cameras in the parking lots."
  • "100% hard wired so that transmission is guaranteed."
  • "Preferably 100% hardwired. Consistent communication."
  • "My experience is 100% wired for security purposes due to concerns over bandwidth or interference from building materials or vehicles."

Wireless Security Concerns

Another leading problem with wireless adoption are concerns in keeping it secured.  This is somewhat surprising given the comparatively widespread adoption in City Surveillance systems where 'wifi security' was not mentioned as a common concern:

  • "All cameras are hard wired because of WiFi security is questionable."
  • "Almost all are hard wired. Driver? It's the way it's always been done. Maybe improved reliability, and improved (perceived) security"
  • "All cameras are wired. They won't to use Wi-Fi for security reasons."
  • "None wireless for security purpose and no interference. Main driver is security reason."
  • "100% wired. Wireless offer less security / bandwidth."

Wireless Used Outdoors

However, when wireless is used, it generally is used outside where trenching in long expanses of concrete or airstrip is too disruptive or too expensive to consider:

  • "Wireless ones near the runway zones due to cable access restrictions."
  • "Less than 5% are wireless and these are typically only around de-icing areas, vehicle gates, and perimeter fencing. These areas are so far from wired connection points that the only option is wireless."
  • "Wireless is only used when cabling is not possible or is cost prohibitive."
  • "5% Wireless, for hard to cable locations like perimeter and flight lines."

Video Analytics Use

Question: How often are video analytics or license plate recognition being used? What types? Why or why not?

Summary:  Video analytics for airport deployments is low.  License plate recognition is the most common analytic used while other types only occasionally adopted with mixed results:

LPR/ALPR Is Common 

  • "LPR quite often, as systems are now fairly reliable. "
  • "Plate recognition is widely used and is much more accurate. the only problems is foreign license plates, when they are not always recognized."
  • "LPR for cars and delivery trucks"
  • "ALPR has proven useful and mostly reliable for parking infractions."
  • " License plate are often used on the parking lots. Not in the airport itself."

Other Types Infrequent

  • "We do not use analytics often. False positive alarms are the worst possible situation for airport security staff because they run the risk of TSA shutting down a concourse, and them being blamed for delays and increased operations costs."
  • "Not very often, not applicable to goals."
  • "video analytics is often used but not always efficient. the margin of error is big (face recognition) and because of crowded areas in public areas of an airport, we get many false alarms."
  • "Only as a trial, it was not very successful, and was not actually deployed."

Storage Types Deployed

Question: What type of storage is used? DAS? NAS? SAN? Storage redundancy or not? Why?

Summary: A majority used network attached storage, but when funding shortages or older analog technology is a factor it is common for direct attach storage to be the only type used.

Network Attached Storage

  • "NAS. Reliable and scalable."
  • "All of ours that we deploy is NAS. Some storage redundancy is a must."
  • "We are trying to move towards NAS which tends to play better with VMSs, especially in redundancy situations. DAS is only used in very small systems. It is not uncommon to see 5 to 10PB systems."
  • "NAS most of the time with failover and RAID for redundancy. Their requirements are very strict and narrow when it comes to up time and retention."
  • "NAS, and redundant internal hard drives, for backup off site for the nas drive, and fail safe for the internal."

Direct Attached Storage

  • "DAS. Not much redundancy due to cost."
  • "Depends on the NVR manufacturer, but usually DAS."
  • " All types including traditional storage in a NVR. It all depends upon the complexity of the system."
  • "DAS, usually we see video archive failover in place with RAID5 on each storage server."
  • "DAS...RAID6"
  • "Main server and recording servers are redundant to provide 24/7 operation. DAS storage is used."

Redundancy for Bigger Systems

  • "Depends, but always RAID 5 as a minimum and with larger systems RAID 6 and sometime even 6E. Full redundancy is typically too expensive. If redundancy is done it is a physically separately located system and stills has RAID."
  • "NAS with redundancy. It would be unacceptable to lose video of vehicle damaging aircraft and knocking it out of service and not have that video for insurance purposes."
  • "For large vms platforms, its a combination. Usually with redundancy. Data requirements vary from months or much longer."
  • "We specify a fail-over recording server for each 2 recording servers. These archive to a SAN with minimum of RAID 5 protection. Each server and SAN are also provided with dual NICs for network redundancy."

Common Integrations

Question: What type of third party integrations (access control, intrusion, emergency dispatch, etc.) are typical?

Summary:  Overwhelmingly, physical access control is integrated with video. Over 85% of the responses mentioned access control as the most common integration, and while other systems received mentions none were mention commonly enough to be typical:

  • "Airports rely heavily on access control zoning. Surveillance coverage is tied closely with any movement between zones with airside/landside being the priority."
  • "As a baseline ACS and IDS and integrated (e.g. door open too long automatically calls up camera)"
  • "ACS is the most common integration."
  • "Most of the time it is access control. We have used Genetec's Security Center quite often for these applications."
  • "PACS is typical for most of our airport installs, they want to see where people are going or trying to go."
  • "Access control integration is typical as monitoring access to restricted areas is important."

Others Sporadic

Beyond that, integrations are common but follow no common theme, usually driven or inhibited by the exact mix of systems onsite. Systems like intrusion, mass notification, and fire alarms are tied into video as budget and operational necessity permit:

  • "Access Control, Intrusion, Intercom, CAD, Duress, Code Blue type phones, PIDS, video walls, and PSIM's. Some airports have also expanded the integration to include radar based detection but that would be associated with the PIDS systems."
  • "Access control is primary. Rarely do airport use interior intrusion detection with the exception of perimeter intrusion detection systems which are often used. Mature airports / operators do use security management systems or PSIMs but these are often too complicated for new operators (i.e. New large airports in emerging countries). Through the ACS integration the VSS has potential connections to other systems such as fire alarm and higher level airport operating systems. It is uncommon for these the VSS to be directly integrated to many other systems."

System Objectives

Question: What is the main objective / use of the airport surveillance system?

Summary:  Keeping tabs on and discouraging crime was cited as the primary system goal, however visual records of events and general traffic monitoring were also commonly cited.

Situational Awareness

The clear primary goal of airport surveillance is to enhance public safety by effective collection of events that may not be able to be seen with limited law enforcement manpower.

  • "Main objective is crowd safety.  There are only so many officers, so cameras help expand visibility of those limited resources."
  • "To provide monitoring of Traffic Flows as well as Security functionality. WH&S and situational awareness for the site."
  • "Crowd Monitoring, Loss Prevention, Carpark Monitoring, Parked Aircraft Monitoring, Runway Monitoring"
  • "Protection of people and property, with the ability to track and prevent/capture a target in the case of a security breach."
  • "It is to maintain security of everyone inside the airport, the security of commercial air travel, screen for suspicious behavior, screen for black lists (wanted people), screen for trafficking of illegal goods. It aids the field personnel, helps better utilization of personnel assets and deters wrongdoers, prevent tehft in retail areas, perimeter security to prevent loitering in the airport hinterland, ANPR for parking fees, and vehicle screening at the main entrance road of the airport."
  • "Ensure people´s security, monitor and improve operations (include maintenance), and prevent/control/reduce emergencies."
  • "Security monitoring of persons in the airport or on the property, operations / safety monitoring of baggage conveyors, baggage cart / tug traffic and fueling operations."

Access Control Enhancement

However, surveillance has a strong companion use to physical access control in monitoring for unauthorized intrusion and security segregation between public and operational, potentially hazardous, areas:

  • "To minimize intruders entering the facility or to gain unauthorized access to restricted access."
  • "Prevention of unauthorized entry to Primary Security Line (PSL) and public/employee safety"
  • "For control of breach points."
  • "Verification of entry/exit point to prevent emergencies."
  • "The first objective is always to get a good visual image both live and recorded of who is going to the gates. Another objective is for perimeter control, the fence lines are watched."

Biggest Users

Question: Who uses the airport surveillance system? Are there dedicated staff monitoring cameras? Why or why not?

Summary: In the majority of cases, responses mentioned that camera feeds are monitored by live operators who then dispatch security or other operational personnel as needed.  In many cases, the overall responsibility of operators are split between other responsibilities and casual observation or 'hotpot' only monitoring may be the result:

Security Forces/First Responders

In the majority of airports, video surveillance is actively monitored by security staff:

  • "Security personnel. They have a dedicated staff viewing the monitors."
  • "Airports typically have a 24/7 Airport Operations Center which monitors all the cameras. AOC is staffed by dedicated operators who are trained in the security system operations. Others monitoring locations include FBO for operational / safety monitoring and management on an event driven basis."
  • "Security, yes mostly 6-10 people, depends on volume of traffic that airport sees if they have dedicated or not."
  • "Security uses the ones to help keep track of people in the terminal. Terminal security/airport security."
  • " Security personnel and Police uses the surveillance system. There are dedicated staff monitoring most cameras. Police/passport control locations have cameras."
  • "Full time security/police staff."
  • "Dedicated staff, usually police officers, ex-police officers, ex-military."

Multitasking or Split-role Operators Common

Several responders noted that camera operators are not typically fully staffed or personnel are often tasked with responsibilities other than only watching cameras:

  • "Typically dedicated staff monitor at least a group of available cams.  Monitors can fall into duties of dispatch as well, especially when tied into the ACS system."
  • "Airport´s Security Dept mainly uses the surveillance. But Maintenance and IT people are users too. There are very few cameras for monitor staff, probably because of budget and was unplanned."
  • "Yes there is dedicated security staff viewing some video, and much of it is not monitored live."
  • "The several airports I've been involved in have video displayed live at the command center, and guys sitting at workstations with a view to video, but I would not say they are glued to the screens. Displays are now big and bright affording a great view of surveilled areas, but it's just not practical for a guy to stare a screens for a whole shift and actually see anything after a while."
  • "Yes, monitoring rooms are staffed with live operators who are also security officers or general operational workers assigned to the task on rotations."
  • "There is a live monitoring centre, but it rarely has CCTV operators in it."

Purchase and Maintenance Funding

Question: What organization or division pays for the airport surveillance system? How do they get the money?

Summary:  In most cases, funding comes from law enforcement agency budgets, special grants or government bonds, or a mix of both. However, a surprising number of funding responses describe the primary role the private sector plays, with community-oriented charities and businesses contributing cash to the systems: 

National or Federal Budgets/National Security Agencies

  • "The General Authority of Civil Aviation is paying for the construction of the airport, including the surveillance system."
  • "Here in KSA, the security of the airport is being under the responsibility of the MoI and GACA (General Authority of Civil Aviation). GACA, who are a government entity, are the party financing the implementation of the security system."
  • "FAA pays the majority of the bill."
  • "TSA will fund areas where 'security' is identified, and funding is Fed supported."
  • "Grant money from Homeland Security"

Local Governments

  • "Usually the government municipality that runs airport operations. This could be a city, or county level organization. Money comes from taxes or grants."
  • "Parking, general activity areas typically funded by the municipality"
  • "Public bid paid for by the city operating the airport."
  • "Municipal money. City directors,taxes."
  • "Surveillance is bought by the local city that operates the airport."

Airport Operating Authorities or Departments

  • "Owner and operator of the Airport. They are an independent business organization with their own budget."
  • "Typically a CapEx expenditure through the security or IT departments."
  • "Airport consortium pays for upgrades from their maintenance budgets."
  • "Surveillance system is paid by company that managed airport."
  • "The airport authority usually pays for the overall system. I have seen some of the airlines want feeds from some of the cameras and they will also participate in funding the project. "
  • "Security. Their budgets are allocated from construction to maintenance. Airports are one sector where security has budget even if they don't fight for it!"

Who Writes the Specifications?

Question: Who typically writes the airport surveillance system specification? Does this result in good results? Why or why not?

Summary:  In general, security consultants are used with generally good results. However, in several cases the responsibility falls to general A&E firms where the end result is much less positive.

Consultants Used Everywhere

Airport surveillance design is often entrusted to specialized security consultants.  The end result generally depends entirely on whether the consultant is a good resource or not:

  • "The best results are when a security consultant familiar with airport security needs and operations designs and engineers the security systems. The specs may also be written by an MEP firm but they typically don't have the depth of knowledge of security equipment and the complex integration requirements."
  • "Consultants, and yes in general I think this leads to good results. Tough to generalize but there it is."
  • "Typically consultant are engaged from security industry to design and write specifications."
  • "Outside consulting firms. Some times in conjunction with law enforcement agencies."
  • "Most customers look to 3rd party consultants with good results. This serves as a risk mitigation measure for the customer and also allows them to focus on their daily activities."

Lukewarm Results

However, unlike City Surveillance systems where the results of a consultant's specification are generally negative, in the case of airports the result tends to be more positive.  While negative results were still cited, responses describing positive results for airport projects were much more common:

  • "Specs are typically written by security consultants employed by an A&E. Results vary, but generally speaking, the results are good."
  • "Whew, doesn't everyone love a consultant? Most times a consultant with a track record in aviation systems will be involved. Results vary from okay to not bad to oh sh** to really f****** bad. It's an impression, but rarely are they okay."
  • "Consultants with generally vague terms."
  • "Ours has used a variety of security consultants with varying results!"

Architects and Engineers Groups

Another common design or specification complaint are not security professionals at all, but general architects or engineering firms who specialize in airport facilities. Commentary for these designs was generally more negative with most responses characterizing the end result as less sophisticated 

  • "If the Engineering firm is specialized in security, the results are usually good. If the Engineering firm is specialized in "electricity", the results depends on the integrators!"
  • "A&E with airport experience - there are several."
  • "Architects and Engineering firms. The specifications in our area a relatively open and fair; however they are not really qualified to break down and explain the differences in different systems."
  • "Architects, which typically doesn't provide adequate coverage as it is almost always based off a generalized template."

Biggest Improvement Needed

Question: How would you improve the airport surveillance systems you have worked on?

Summary: Of all recommendations, video analytics that work well could have the single biggest positive impact. However, cash-strapped operators often claimed improving existing cameras or expanding monitoring staff is needed first.

Video Analytics

Similar to City Surveillance feedback, there is pent-up demand for effective VA that potentially could improve overall performance of existing systems:

  • "Better implementation of analytics for left bag allowing airport staff to quickly identify who left an item behind."
  • "Increased use of analytics would make the system more effective."
  • "Improve the efficiency of investigation by introducing video analytics"
  • "I would like to use more video analytic."
  • "I would have analytics used more frequently."
  • "If we could get analytics, our system would be proactive instead of reactive."

Better Cameras 

Many responses mentioned the bigger priority is upgrading existing camera performance or increasing resolution would yield big returns:

  • "Migration of legacy CCTV models more frequently"
  • "Larger imager resolution...better lens decisions."
  • "Install more higher resolution fixed cameras."
  • "Would try not to watch such large areas at once with lower res cameras."
  • "We typically work with sections of the systems already in place (old analog, old 1st generations IP systems). To have great integrated systems, those systems have to be replaced."

More/Better Operators 

And finally, simply staffing monitoring centers with more operators was often recommend for improving system performance:

  • "More live view bodies."
  • "More staff training"
  • "Having dedicated staff monitoring the systems as well as have well defined policies/requirements."
  • "Recruit and retain specialized people."
  • "We have over 300 cameras, but only three people per 24 hours to watch them.  More people are needed. The cameras do no good without operators viewing them."

2 reports cite this report:

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