Between October and November last year, 39 incidences of sabotage, attacks, unruly passengers and incidents occurred in airports and on aircraft across the world and, while the majority of these did not present major threats to the security of the aircraft, some did have the potential to do so.

One of these incidences involved a passenger spraying his fellow passengers with Dr Scholl’s foot powder after he was disgruntled by his flight being delayed for seven hours. Many others were the result of alcohol-fuelled action. In addition to these, there were also two incidences throughout this period in which individuals breached the perimeter security of airports, in one instance by simply climbing the perimeter fence and gaining access to the runway.

Alec Owen, Future Fibre Technologies’ (FFT) international client manager, warns that these perimeter security breaches will continue to occur in airports across the world due to inadequate security systems in place to protect their perimeters.

Certainly, the issue of airport security has been a ‘hot’ topic at the forefronts of peoples’ minds, particularly since the terrorist attacks in the US. While lines for x-ray machines have grown and the number of pat-down searches have increased, most travellers feel it is an inconvenience they are willing to live with in exchange for piece of mind.

The issue of perimeter security

According to Alec Owen, the perimeter security at airports is often inferior to that inside the terminal; “The importance of quality airport perimeter security cannot be overstated. This was highlighted by the recent invasion of Stanstead Airport by demonstrators, delaying commuters and forcing the cancellation of over 50 flights and leaving the airport operator facing huge fines.”

“Airport perimeters can often be very long which can result in significant installation costs for many security systems,” he adds. “However, FFT’s Secure Fence™ system offers the lowest ongoing total cost of ownership due to it requiring no electronics or power in the field.”

Secure Fence is a fence-mounted fibre optic detection system, which uses advanced intrusion detection technology to protect airport perimeters without the penalty of nuisance alarms. This technology, known as alarm recognition and discrimination (ARaD) technology, is patented by the company and can detect a fence climb, cut or lift, even when they occur during natural events such as torrential rain and high winds, thereby virtually eliminating the incidence of nuisance alarms. The system provides real time notification of intrusions, enabling operators to quickly dispatch security personnel to the precise intrusion point, maximising operational response, and it requires no electronics or power in the field – a significant cost saving.

“Secure Fence can pinpoint the location of intrusions to better than 25m anywhere along the entire perimeter fence,” Owen says. “It’s this level of accuracy that airport operators need. The traditional 200m or 400m zones are simply not good enough anymore,” he said.