AdvanceGuard: The ideal dashboard for the security operations of an airport

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The AdvanceGuard system should become the dashboard for all air-side security operators – according to Shannon Airport’s Chief Security Officer, John Francis.

Navtech Radar’s Security Segment Leader Simonas Mikuzis spoke to Francis about how the airport implements the system, which not only monitors inside the perimeter but also provides advance warning of incoming potential threats – with instant notifications.

Francis talked Mikuzis through both the challenges that the airport faced before applying AdvanceGuard – which were not resolved by the other approaches tested – and the valuable solutions the system provides.

The challenge

Shannon Airport is the third-busiest airport in Ireland and is used by both passenger and military aircraft. The site also contains engineering works and is therefore both busy and complex.

The airport has a particular need for perimeter security because its use by the US military has led to it being a target for incursions and protests.

After testing multiple approaches to perimeter surveillance – which fell short of its requirements – the airport approached Navtech in 2016 because it needed a comprehensive, futureproof solution that would provide real time situational awareness.

The solution also had to scale and grow with the airport’s needs and with advances in technology.

The solution

Shannon Airport chose AdvanceGuard because the system uses high definition scanning radars and intelligent rules-based software to protect both sides of the perimeter.

Our team worked with management and engineers at the airport to design a long term perimeter surveillance system with room for growth.

The system is based on our innovative AdvanceGuard wide-area surveillance solution, which is ideal for complex, active sites where legitimate and illegitimate activity may occur together.

It works in all weather and light conditions and in extreme temperatures.

At Shannon Airport, the original installation was set up to surveil the airport grounds and around ten metres beyond the perimeter.

This required just three radars and immediately provided highly effective perimeter protection and a comprehensive overview of site activity.

However, the system has been extended over the years, with continuous communication between us and the airport to introduce additional capabilities, such as ‘friend or foe’ – which tags activities or vehicles as legitimate or not.

The benefits of ‘friend or foe’ are not limited to surveillance precision; it also enhances situational awareness by providing easy-to-read, real time visibility of the locations of authorised personnel and vehicles on site.

Later, the airport applied AdvanceGuard’s integrated ADS-B capability to identify and track aircraft.

The long term problem of nuisance alarms triggered by wildlife has also been effectively managed using AdvanceGuard’s rules-based system.

A residual amount of such alarms have been left to provide ongoing ‘proof of life’ for the system.

In his own words

Francis said: “Securing the perimeter is not just about perimeter protection but also about being able to verify whether your perimeter has been breached – and then dealing with it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“One of our biggest problems was nuisance alarms – we want to know that if we do have a breach, we can verify it very quickly.

“The Navtech system is integrated with our CCTV system, so it gives us the ability to resolve alarms remotely very quickly and very efficiently.

“The nearest camera will respond to that alarm and will highlight the type of alarm – which means that you’re not spending an awful lot of time rushing around dealing with false alarms.”

He added: “Beyond the fence, we want to see or have as much advance notice as possible that we may have a potential breach.

“Occasionally, for example, animals come up beside the perimeter.

“The Navtech system gives us the ability to see what’s approaching the perimeter, providing an early warning system for our patrols.”

Speaking about the product demonstration, Francis said: “We were sufficiently impressed that it works in all weathers, whether it’s fog, heavy rain or even snow – the product is not affected.

“That is a significant advantage, especially if you’re dealing with other technologies that wouldn’t be as effective or would be affected by atmospherics.”

“AdvanceGuard has the potential to become a dashboard for the security operation of an airport”

Reflecting on the system’s effectiveness, Francis said: “AdvanceGuard has the potential to become a dashboard for the security operation of an airport because, in respect to its capability, not only does it monitor the perimeter but it also tracks movement should there be a security breach.

“With ‘friend or foe’, you can monitor the manoeuvring area of an airport and identify very quickly what’s moving around the airport and see it quite visibly.

“With the ADS-B, you can see the movement of aircraft.

“An additional layer of the system is drone detection and tracking, which is a feature that we will try here in the not-too-distant future.

“It even has the ability to track flocks of birds. It gives us advance warning of a wide range of hazards that can affect the operation of the airport.”

When asked how AdvanceGuard differs from the other solutions currently on the market, Francis said: “There are many perimeter protection products, but AdvanceGuard gives you the additional functionality and ability to see what’s going on before a breach, which you don’t get with perimeter-protection-only systems.”

Simonas Mikuzis is the Security Segment Leader at Navtech Radar.

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