28 Dec 2011
The world of security is fast-moving, nowhere more so than in the aviation industry where advances in security are being implemented within airports to combat those who seek to penetrate restricted areas to commit criminal or terrorist acts.

Following a number of high-profile terrorist incidents involving aircraft and airports in recent years, aviation security has been significantly strengthened with the introduction of a range of measures designed to protect the travelling public. These include the deterrence and detection of weapons and explosive devices to prevent them being smuggled onto aircraft through the use of metal detectors, explosive sniffers, canine searches, baggage and increasingly full body scanners.

Allied to this, passengers are also now banned from taking liquids in the form of drinks, gels, sprays etc as carry on items (unless purchased at the airport duty free shop and sealed in a transparent plastic bag) to prevent the smuggling of liquid explosives such as nitro-glycerine or ammonia based compounds on to aircraft.

Around the airport perimeter itself, more capable low light and infra-red CCTV systems have been installed and mobile patrols on foot and in vehicles have been stepped up with the use in some instances of advanced fence intrusion detector systems (FIDS) to deter and detect intruders. These use a variety of detection technologies, sounding an alarm in the security centre if an attempt is made to climb over or breach them. And bollards and anti-crash barriers are deployed at various vehicle access points to mitigate the threat of vehicles laden with explosives, gas bottles or gasoline from ramming into terminal buildings.

Another aspect of this multi-layered approach to airport security is access control. Controlling access to key areas within the airport terminal and its associated buildings remains a critical security task and, with many thousands of staff and other employees on site needing to have the right levels of access authorisation, the latest in state-of-the-art electronic access control technology is required to achieve it.

Access control in action

BAA Heathrow Airport is the world's busiest international airport serving over 180 destinations in more than 90 countries. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and servicing over 65 million passengers per year, an average of over 180,000 passengers use the airport every per day.

The new £4.3 billion Terminal 5 (T5) is Heathrow's latest success. Covering 260 hectares it is the new dedicated home for British Airways and consists of three buildings, the main terminal plus two satellites, Terminals 5B and 5C, linked by an automated transit system.