Travelers whose journey takes them through Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP) may soon have an added layer of protection. According to an article in the Star Tribune, the Metropolitan Airports Commission hired a contractor to begin testing different high-definition cameras for use in the facility.

The airport expects a recommendation for the purchase of 1,800 new cameras this fall, with installation starting in early 2013. Full deployment may take up to four years.

According to its website, MSP serves more than 32 million passengers annually. Fourteen airlines operate out of two terminals across 3,400 acres. Keeping the facility secure, then, is a formidable challenge.

But airport officials expect that a new camera system will bring many benefits. Not only will it enhance the airport’s ability to identify dangerous items or individuals, it should also help keep flights running on time.

Operations will be able to more effectively mitigate circumstances on the airfield that may contribute to delays, without sending personnel to the scene. Higher-resolution imagery from different angles will provide a more complete view, allowing for more effective monitoring of baggage loading activities, for example.

The airport will consider several options for its new camera systems, including models with facial recognition technology and the ability to sound an alarm in the event of unauthorized access to a secure area.

The camera upgrade will be the airport’s first since 1995. MSP currently uses traditional surveillance cameras that record on videotape. Retrieving video for investigative use can be time-consuming, and blurry images can make positive identification difficult.

High-definition cameras are expected to cost $20 million. Delta Airlines, MSP’s largest carrier, will fund part of the project. Airport officials hope to secure additional monies from the Transportation Security Administration.