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Boston's airport tests new security system

By DAVID D. HASKELL

BOSTON, May 13 (UPI) -- Officials at Boston's Logan International Airport, infamously linked to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, announced Tuesday they have begun testing a new automatic threat-detection system.

Logan is the first major commercial airport in the nation to deploy the integrated software-based perimeter security system.

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"This is truly new technology being applied for the first time for aviation security," said Glenn McGonnigle during a demonstration of the system in Logan's control tower.

The Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan, has been aggressively pursuing improved security since terrorists hijacked two airliners after takeoff from the airport and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

McGonnigle is president and chief executive officer of VistaScape Security Systems, which this spring completed installation of its Security Data Management System for the Navy in San Diego.

"The technology enables the equivalent of network intrusion detection to be applied to real world situations," he said.

The pilot program, in its initial testing phase at Logan, provides an early warning system round the clock and in any weather condition.

The system uses FLIR Systems Inc. thermal imaging cameras and the SDMS software to identify abnormal movements or objects along the airport's 6.5-mile beach perimeter. The software ignores normal movements, such as planes, birds or coyotes.

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Terrorists emerging from the water or approaching the shore in a boat and intent on hijacking an airliner, for example, would automatically trigger an audio alarm when an established security zone is penetrated.

"It's like having an invisible fence, keeping the bad guys out," said McGonnigle.

The alarm would not only alert personnel in the tower to the threat, but also state troopers equipped with hand-held wireless computers, allowing them to respond faster than previously.

In the case of Logan, security is provided by Massachusetts State Police, which has an anti-terrorism unit at the airport equipped with submachine guns.

"The software is able to identify intruders within that alarm zone and highlight specific responses for security personnel to take," McGonnigle said.

"Operators don't need to be watching the screens or monitors to do the detection," he said.

"The technology gives security personnel a continuous army of vigilant eyes scanning the horizon for this kind of event," McGonnigle said.

"Ultimately this helps make security personnel more effective in doing their jobs, get them out from behind the monitors and out into the field with data that they can use to respond to real live events, to stop an event before it happens," he said.

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With the Federal Aviation Administration in charge of making sure the skies around the airport are safe, the SDMS is "really focused on the ground threat, anything coming inbound to our beach," said Dennis Treece, Massport's security director.

"These guards (the SDMS system) are awake 24 hours a day, and we don't need to watch the screen until there's an alarm condition," Treece said.

"This technology is very exciting because our troopers will be able to receive the alarms and the visual data from this detection system" on their wireless, hand-held computers, Treece said. "They'll know exactly where to go to catch the perpetrator."

Treece said it will be sometime this summer before Massport decides whether to buy and install the system.

(For more information see the Web sites Massport.com, vistascape.com and flir.com)

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