Airport Security

“What does not move could be a Threat”

The goal of Airport Security is to prevent attacks at commercial aviation.   The strategy is to prevent the threats from gaining access to the commercial airplanes.  Airports are divided into two sectors for security.  There is an open sector and a secured sector on each side of the security screening portals.
Potential threats before the screening stations are largely ignored.  Security from the curb or parking structures to the screeners is left to a handful of professionals using conventional crowd control security measures.  This means, the threat must reveal themselves in some way to trigger a response.   Erratic behavior is a common form of spotting a potential threat.  A significant problem to Airport Security is “unattended luggage” in the open areas of the Airport.  There is a concern that terrorist may detonate explosive device in the heavy populated open areas of Airports.  

This threat often takes the form of an unattended package.  The Airport loudspeaker system constantly repeats over and over again, “beware of unattended luggage, don’t leave your bag unattended, and if you see an unattended bag report it to an Airport employee”.  This form of security uses the general public as the first line of defense.  How successful is this approach?  Hard to measure, but it is certainly cost effective.  

It is difficult to assess the effectiveness of the present public awareness system.  The fact that few attacks of this nature have been launched, successfully or unsuccessfully, leads to a false sense of security.  Basic information like how often is a package or suitcase left unattended is missing?  How long is the time before an unattended suitcase is detected and reported?  How disruptive in response to these unattended packages are these events?   This last question we do have sources of good information.  

Airports shut down all the time for weather reasons.  Thunderstorms for short periods, major storms or fog situations for longer periods provide reliable information on the impact of these disruptions.  The shutting down of a terminal, evacuating all passengers, screening of evacuees, canceling or rescheduling flights, produces major disruptions that propagate far beyond the immediate airport.  Plane schedules or delays and cancellations often take days to recover.  A relatively benign shut down of less than one hour is manageable.  When the threat has a bomb or incendiary potential the shut down can push to several hours or more, even when the threat is false.  These kinds of delays are not a containable event.  Costs and operational impacts mushroom with time. The cost of false alarms is significant; anything that expedites the process by cutting down the event time has a huge cost benefit. Although each Airport case is unique, shut downs costs from $100,000 to over a $1,000,000 for each event are reasonable estimates.

We believe ISSM is a game changer because it is automatically resolves most threats to a resolution of true or false threats and facilitates the Airport response.  How is this achieved?

To understand the benefit of ISSM we need to understand the capability of ISSM as a surveillance system.  Infrared Security System & Method (ISSM, US patent 7,738,008, June 15, 2010) is a real time three-dimensional screening system that can accurately detect moving and stationary objects.  Objects are defined by their physical size and precise location.  With this precise size capability measuring capability a small package is easily detected when left alone.  ISSM screens all stationary and moving objects and classifying them into different size categories fitting the application (e.g. luggage, people, animals, small and large vehicles).  How does ISSM apply its capability to the Airport problem?
  1. ISSM detects, classifies, and categorizes all isolated objects in its surveillance field of view.  The computations are performed at video frame rates.
  2. ISSM processor ignores moving objects (in this case), and identifies only stationary objects as a potential threat.
  3. The stationary object must be in a certain size range, must be non-moving, and cannot have a “person size object” within a defined range to the object.  If a person sets their luggage down we do not want to trigger an unattended object event unless the person moves away from the object. Detected objects meeting these criteria are classified as a “potential target”.
  4. This “potential target” is observed for 30-60 seconds.  If the potential threat remains stationary and unattended, its classification is increased to “target”.  People passing by the “target” may temporarily obscure the target, the 30-60 second range compensates for any line-of-sight interruptions.  
  5.  Once the “target” is identified, the target scene video that has been recorded is “back tracked” to identify and determine the circumstances of the “birth” of the target.  (A detected target must be created by some event that caused the target to become an isolated object).
  6.  Once the source producing the birth has been detected; we can refine the threat.  Let’s examine potential sources.
a.  The “target” occurred as a result of a person setting the object down and walking away.  This is the most common situation and the focus of our thrust.
b.  The “target” occurred without a clear connection to an identifiable person.  In this case a security analyst must be engaged to interpret the video information.
  1.  The ISSM alerts Airport Security that an event is ongoing.  
  2.  ISSM before a back track search of the video to determine the circumstances in the birth of the target. ISSM has the ability to uniquely identify the person that set down the object.  ISSM has computed a “signature” (size and thermal contrast) that uniquely identifies the culprit and allows the tracking of the individual in a crowded environment.
  3.  ISSM forward tracks the culprit to record his behavior and to accurately determine where the culprit has moved since leaving his luggage.  
a.    In most cases the owner of the unattended package is in the area involved in some form of distraction, (e.g. talking on his cell-phone or ordering from a food service stand).  Dispatching a security official armed with a real time cell-phone video of the scene will contain and resolve this breach.
b.    In other cases the culprit has departed the area, suggesting a clear intent to leave the package behind. Real time information is used to vector Airport security personnel to apprehend the culprit as he tries to escape.  The tracking of the culprit continues as long as the culprit remains in the surveillance field of view.  The size and thermal signature is information that can be used to extend the coverage by handing off to other ISSM surveillance cameras in other parts of the Airport facility.
c.    The security analyst will “back track” the culprit with the package looking for prior interactions that would suggest additional people are involved.
d.    ISSM continues to provide real time information of the event.  Airport security uses the information to direct a controlled, limited, and focused the response.  Information is key element to an effective limited response.  This minimizes the overall disruption, enhances security, and provides a cost-effective resolution to the event.


ISSM possess a level of detection and discrimination not previously available by convention physical security systems.  By exploiting the enhanced capabilities a multi-level search, detect, and classify is performed without human operator involvement.  Once the threat level has been performed, airport security needs to take over.  The benefit of ISSM in the above scenario is obvious.  The threat can be categorized into a routine problem or a potential serious event.  Recognition and verification of non-threatening events allows a simple security response that will not cause an impact on airport operations.  The terminal does not need to be shut down.

ISSM identified true target threats within 60 seconds of first detection.  ISSM identified the culprit (source of the target) within 2 minutes, and has initiated tracking of the culprit.  If the target information and threat level is transmitted to the response personnel apprehension could be within minutes.  The early apprehension of the culprit allows a rapid resolve the actual situation. Since a very high percentage of “unattended baggage” events are actually false alarms, ISSM allows an early detection thus avoiding both major and minor disruptions in Airport operations.  Threats are detected in real time. This allows a rapid response to the “target”, early evacuations, and early capture of the people involved in the event. All of which features serves to minimize the duration of the shut down thus minimizing the impact.  

Contact Information
Infrared Applications Inc. is the owner of the ISSM patent.  Gary Ball, President of IAI, is in the process of formulating future plans for ISSM for a multitude of applications.  Interested parties may contact Mr. Ball at for more information.