Just as airports must follow airport security requirements pertaining to vendors and staff, so to must they set up security procedures for construction projects.
When East Midlands Airport in Leicestershire, England, required runway resurfacing, it was crucial to customize an effective and compliant security plan specific to the project. Project managers sought to deploy the best security equipment and to implement sound security policies. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology was a key component of the security initiative.
Today, East Midlands Airport is vastly different than when it was a Royal Air Force (RAF) facility during World War II. More than 5 million passengers pass through the airport every year, and London’s Heathrow is the only UK airport to handle more air cargo. In fact, East Midlands is the main hub for a number of European airlines and two prominent cargo carriers, DHL and UPS. In early 2018, UPS announced plans for a $158 million expansion at its UK hub at the East Midlands Airport.
In late 2016, Galliford Try, a large construction company headquartered in the UK, won a £14.8 million contract to resurface the East Midlands runway using a special intensive paving method. Instead of traditional concrete, the contractor used specially formulated asphalt that allowed for staged resurfacing during seven 48-hour weekends spanning the period from November 5 to December 19. This approach significantly reduced the repeated disruptions normally associated with traditional nighttime resurfacing that would have disrupted air cargo schedules. The project was also timed to coincide with reduced seasonal demand.
The runway at East Midlands Airport is 9,491 ft (2,893 m) long and 150 ft (46 m) wide. It had not been refurbished since 1999, so the surface was nearing the end of its expected 15 to 20-year lifespan. Modernization is crucial at an airport where passenger volume is expected to double and cargo volume is expected to triple by 2035.
During the runway resurfacing at East Midlands Airport, fresh asphalt was milled out to a thickness of 6.7 in (170 mm). Ultimately, 1.6 million sq/ft (150,000 sq/m) of the runway was resurfaced, equivalent to 25 mi (40 km) of highway lanes. Project specifications also called for the replacement of 1,200 runway lights with LED AGL lights. It is estimated that these new lights will deliver 30-percent savings during their lifecycle. There were also environmental considerations. For example, runway spoil was effectively recycled for use in other areas, like car parks, footpaths, roads and the concourse itself.
As planning for the runway resurfacing began, project managers focused on safety and risk mitigation. They also wanted to anticipate every possible contingency. To successfully address airport security requirements, project managers had to address a wide variety of security needs. The RFID security system was a key part of their efforts.
Special access control gates for vehicles were required for timely screening and verification of worker credentials. RFID cards and detection systems addressed this need.
Security personnel had to repeatedly sweep the construction zone to search for hazardous materials and to detect theft. They also had to perform inspections to ensure contractor compliance with airport rules and regulations. Monitoring the ingress and egress of workers was an essential component of the process.
Controlled access using RFID cards prevents inadvertent access to areas outside the construction zone, such as areas open to various airport operations. For security reasons, contractors must also remain on prescribed access routes that are clearly marked.
Since the construction project did not allow unescorted access to personnel and vehicles, security officers personally escorted workers seeking access to other parts of the airport for breaks and other reasons.
To proactively address the project’s security needs, Galliford Try and global security expert G4S collaborated to make physical security an integral part of the runway project. To address RFID requirements for security during construction, G4S sought assistance from Identec Ltd, a FEIG ELECTRONICS partner.
Identec’s decades-long expertise in designing customized RFID solutions was particularly relevant. In partnership with TrackerPoint Ltd, the company developed software to operate a gated security system using RFID technology. The system automatically registered and verified workers entering the secure work site.
Before work began, all personnel received uniquely numbered UHF RFID cards linked to the TrackerPoint database. Every worker was pre-assigned an access status, although the custom software allowed G4S security personnel to change any worker’s access status at any time. The system also allowed for later additions to the list of registered workers, and for the production and issuance of personalized UHF RFID cards on-site. Ultimately, security staff issued more than 2,000 cards.
Project participants passed through specially designed entry gate and exit gates. At each gate, Identec used a FEIG LRU3500 Long Range Reader connected to four 600×270 mm FEIG antennas. As each vehicle approached the gate, the reader detected the RFID cards of occupants. Information about each person was displayed on a monitor viewed by G4S security guards. They would allow vehicle access only after verification of the information. The monitor’s display was cleared as the next vehicle approached.
The system made it possible to know exactly who was onsite at any given time. It automatically generated reports regarding worker locations, past and present. This addressed any potential emergencies while providing ongoing activity analyses.
The overall efficiency of the RFID-based security system helped project managers meet strict project deadlines. Ultimately, the resurfacing project was completed 12 hours early, and without defect.
The groundbreaking approach to RFID-based security and runway resurfacing was a first for the UK. Hopefully, it will serve as a blueprint for future airport construction projects.
FEIG ELECTRONICS has specialized in RFID contactless identification for more than 50 years. The company, based in Weilburg, Germany, doesn’t sell directly to endusers but relies on top partners throughout the region to sell and support their products. Identec Ltd is a long-term partner of FEIG ELECTRONICS in the UK region and has developed innovative technology solutions to benefit many industries. For prompt assistance, please contact us today so we can help you with a solution.