Is CCTV at fault for Missing Airport Bomber?

By: John Honovich, Published on Aug 14, 2009

In July 2009, a guy with a fake bomb shut down a NYC airport. This caused massive delays and certainly millions in costs. This week, news come that the surveillance video either was no good or did not exist of the incident. Of course, this resulted in criticisms of the airport and the value of surveillance systems.

Such criticisms miss the reality of specifying and deploying systems in airports. For instance:

While megapixel cameras would certainly help cover the large areas within airports, deploying new systems takes years. These are huge projects that are usually only done every 7 - 10 years, and as such, tend to reflect technology from years ago.

While critics mentioned that they could only see the tops of people's heads, this is less a design flaw than a reality of the layouts of airports. In an large area with lots of people gathered, cameras have to be put high and at a downward angle. Otherwise, people near the front of the camera would obstruct everyone else. Unless a technology is developed to see through people, placing cameras high in crowded large areas is the best available approach.

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