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Associated Press, May 13, 2003

New Technology Would Detect Intruders onto Airport's Shoreline

by Jennifer Peter

BOSTON (AP) — Logan International Airport plans to purchase a new perimeter security system this summer that will immediately detect intruders on the six miles of surrounding shoreline and communicate their location to state police.

Since last fall, airport officials have tested six security systems as part of an ongoing effort to stay on the cutting edge of aviation safety. The last of those systems is now being piloted.

Each uses high-tech cameras and specially designed software to distinguish between innocent intruders, such as wildlife or the scheduled arrival of a commercial jet, and a potential terrorist threat.

"I don't care about coyotes, but I care about people on the beach," said Dennis Treece, corporate security director for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which oversees Logan. "This is the security guard that never blinks."

The system currently under review is one of several that uses heat-sensor technology. This allows the airport to detect intruders at night and in foggy or stormy conditions. From its perch on the airport control tower, the heat sensor transmits not only the outline of a passing container ship, but shows an outline of its engine room.

Using the technology, officials would be able to see – even in a deep fog – if a small boat came in with four people and left with two.

Another advantage, Treece said, is that the systems include alarms, which automatically alert security officers if something suspicious enters the airport security zone.

This means the cameras do not have to be monitored at all times, Treece said. The cameras can be used as proactive detectors, rather than used after the fact to determine what went wrong, he said.

"It's like an army of vigilant eyes scanning the horizon, except our eyes don't blink," said Glenn McGonnigle, president and chief executive officer of VistaScape, the company that provided software for the system currently being tested at Logan. FLIR Systems is providing the heat-sensor cameras.

If fully implemented, the location and identity of intruders would be immediately transmitted to hand-held computers used by state police assigned to the airport.

The two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, originated at Logan. Since then, the airport has become a national leader in testing new security systems and is the first commercial airport to test the system currently being piloted. It has already been fully implemented at the San Diego Naval base.

In an urban area like Boston, Treece said, the most important aspect of a perimeter security system is its ability to filter out normal intrusions and alarm only when something unusual approaches. Otherwise, he said, the number of false positives would waste time would overwhelm security officers and make them less likely to react quickly when an actual threat occurred.

The final cost of the security system will not be known until a vendor is chosen, which will occur before the end of the summer.

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