Airspace Security for Public Venues – 5 things to Consider
By: James Licata, VP of Strategy & Partnerships
01 Airspace Coverage Area02 Integration Requirements03 Technology Methodology04 Analysis & Reporting05 Maintenance & Support
- Maximizing airspace coverage surrounding a public venue allows for early detection and greater warning times. For sporting venues with 30,000+ capacity, Stadium TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) extend up to 3.4 miles surrounding the venue. While covering every square mile of a TFR area may not be necessary, determining the right balance for getting actionable data to security personnel is paramount. Achieving a sufficient coverage buffer requires thoughtful planning, the knowledge and experience of event security and law enforcement personnel, and the right technology.
- Simply placing airspace monitoring technology central to the venue itself may leave blind spots in coverage and limit the effective range. Many entertainment districts feature challenging topography and/or sprawling layouts connected with several other common gathering locations. A single sensor or a centralized sensor suite install may not be able to perform to the spec sheet given real world issues like interference, ambient noise floor, and line of sight blockages.
- When exploring different solutions, ask to see the details of the effective (realistic) airspace coverage area and how it is validated. Understanding the expected performance and true limitations of the system make integration of airspace monitoring into security operations more effective.
- Security operations for large public events are complex, involving multiple cooperating organizations, and numerous supporting technologies. Airspace monitoring data is just one of many actionable data points for law enforcement and stadium security to use and respond to. There are often common tools in use combining supporting technologies and bubbling up alerts to operators.
- A common issue in many SOCs (Security Operation Centers) is operator overload given the attributable staff to any given screen. The ability to be flexible within different security architectures without adding dedicated operator burden is crucial to SOC efficacy. Bringing airspace monitoring data alongside social media monitoring, camera systems, and other integrated security systems within this ecosystem provides layered situational awareness.
- When thinking about integration requirements, it helps to draw out the architecture of the supporting technologies as well as the lines of communication that are used to initiate responses. Working through mock use cases while looking at this information will help inform the best path to bring in airspace monitoring data. For example, for venues hosting larger or high-profile events, data that can be accessed across a variety of users, partners and/or platforms presents a different set of integration requirements.
- There is a lot of great information and references on different sensor technologies, their capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. It is important to understand both how different approaches fit into a security plan and what other benefits the technology can bring to the table.
- When it comes to the technology methodology, the most important question to ask: is it built for adaptability and longevity? Drone technology evolves at a rapid pace, with new models, communication methods, and new standards (such as FAA Remote ID or use of non-ISM bands for UAS operations). Would the solution you are evaluating become obsolete or need replacement hardware? How long from a new drone model coming out until the detection capability is in your system? While much of the evaluation of an airspace monitoring technology goes into demonstration of operation, there should be just as much scrutiny on how the solution keeps pace and the true total cost (including maintenance and repairs). The large majority of cost for electronic sensors comes from operations and sustainment versus technology procurement.
Figure 1: Adapted from Naval Post graduate study – Total Ownership with Lifecycle Cost Model Under Uncertainty
- How a sensor or suite of technology physically operates and collects data can have major implications on the operator or user of the system. It is important to ask for documentation on how the system works, what data it captures, stores, and displays. Review these available materials to inform discussions and ensure that your organization is not at risk for procurement or operation of the technology. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) provides a great baseline resource for parties interested in evaluating or acquiring airspace monitoring technology. In general, be sure to determine if the technology is licensed for use (and that it covers the operator/acquirer if applicable) and that it does not collect or record PII (Personally Identifiable Information).
- Investing in new technology is hard to justify, especially if the capability of the technology is limited in scope. Does the technology suite under consideration offer other utilities? While airspace security may be the priority, selecting multi-function technology could lead to cost sharing benefits, enable new research and development or strategic initiatives in your community. Take airspace traffic management as an example – security of public venue area could include monitoring the airspace around the nearby heliport. Airspace data collected around the heliport could be useful to Emergency services or Advanced Aerial Mobility initiatives.
- Real-time data is not the only valuable output from airspace monitoring technology. Looking at how airspace activity trends from event to event and over longer periods of time inform new concepts of operations during events. New signage, security presence, and patrols to likely launch locations can make a difference in planning for the next major public event.
- Compiling historical airspace activity data into easy to understand reports along with performance analysis of the airspace monitoring technology itself can give your security operation confidence and a deeper understanding of trends or unique activity. Verification of new updates and performance enhancements should be communicated in these analytics and reports as well.
- Airspace data collected during an event can also be combined with other sources, such as eyewitness reports, social media, or other security technologies. Pulling these items together allows security or law enforcement to follow up on incidents and prepare for future events.
- The larger or more complex the event, the bigger the burden on all collaborating public safety organizations and security teams. In higher profile situations the ability to receive on-site or remote monitoring support can be a difference maker. While a dedicated operator is not always required, it does make operations easier for communication and escalation of airspace incidents within the larger security operation.
- System maintenance and health checks ensure that you are always running confidently and smoothly. If the system does go down or require maintenance how is this handled? Ask about service level guarantees and response times for keeping your airspace monitoring technology up and running.
- Although there are many similarities across different public venue security operations, the environments offer many unique challenges. This can lead to users of airspace monitoring technology having excellent insight on useful features or new capabilities. It’s important to have a feedback loop from those using the system and see an actionable (and timely) plan for integrating them into the technology services.