Miami International Airport is in the midst of a security upgrade that should enable the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airport officials to better protect passengers and employees.

The airport is adding high-definition cameras, ground-based radar technology, video analytics, video management and a secure wireless network to its security system. The equipment will help staff detect unauthorized personnel on the runway and airfields, and keep a closer eye on restricted areas.

The security upgrades are coming at one of the busiest airports in the U.S., as Miami International Airport consistently ranks atop international flights and international passengers, as well as cargo and freight carried.

Ray Davalos, airport building systems manager for Miami International Airport, said changing needs at the airport and within the TSA are the reasons behind the upgrade. The TSA needs better surveillance and higher-resolution video capability, while the airport needs to upgrade its video management system.

GTSI Corp., a systems integrator and solutions company, is providing the technology. The vendor also is teaming up with NICE Systems, to leverage and further enhance the 2,600 cameras already in use throughout the airport. The project is being funded by a $7.4 million TSA grant.

The beefed-up security system will allow a user to more efficiently route information about intruders on airport grounds to the appropriate decision-makers. More than 80 percent of the video and wireless security technology will be brand new, but some of the existing rooftop cameras will remain in use.

Davalos explained that the goal is to use the analytic and visual technology to integrate all the equipment and more accurately locate and confirm targets, which should result in fewer false positives. Airport workers also wear RFID information that can be picked up by ground radar to differentiate those employees from an intruder.

When the security system is fully operational, the ground radar will be used to track a target. The nearest camera will spot the target, and video analytics will confirm the presence of the individual. Security personnel could then be dispatched for the appropriate response.

“The video analytics is going to help us identify the possible targets, along with ground radar to triangulate the position of that target,” Davalos said. “If you have a positive hit on radar and on the analytics, then that becomes a priority target.”

In addition to preventing unauthorized persons from accessing restricted areas, the system will also help make airport workers more efficient. Davalos said that because there are numerous people working on the airfield, sometimes a vehicle will make a wrong turn or a baggage cart will get on the wrong path. Employees will be able to use GPS to get those things back on track more quickly.

“That is something that is a new concept and isn’t really being used for that purpose at the airport — to help the operator address issues of incursions onto runways and taxiways,” Davalos said.

Work has already begun on the upgrades. If the project remains on schedule, the new system should be online by March 2013.

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.