Video Based UVIS Goes Mainstream Case Study

Facilities that invested in systems that rely on static or line-scan cameras are now opting for real-time video solutions.

A decade after 9/11, many of the original under-vehicle inspection systems (UVIS) are being replaced. Facilities that invested in systems that rely on static or line-scan cameras are opting for real-time video solutions. According to engineers at Advanced Detection Technology, 21 customers in the last 48 months have made the switch to video-based UVIS. In some cases the issues center on customer service; more often, however, the technology itself is the cause. Such is the case at one of America’s most carefully guarded facilities. 

Protection at the Highest Level

The Facility, as it is referred to here, is located in a densely populated metropolitan city on the East Coast of the United States. Here, perimeter security is multi-tiered, complex and of national importance. A total of 48 vehicle barrier systems control road access. Each checkpoint uses a serpentine design, multiple visual checks, bollards and bomb-sniffing dogs. Post September 11, it added UVIS as well.

Its first experience with UVIS perimeter security involved several permanently installed line-scan systems positioned at key ingress points around the perimeter. Soon after the installation, security officials at The Facility began having issues. The fragile Plexiglas lens covers used with static scanning cameras, began cracking under the weight of motorcycle escorts entering and exiting the premises. Replacing the covers became an almost daily, time-consuming challenge. Moreover, it posed a security risk as officials had to either close the entrance or compromise its security during the repairs.

In addition, the top of each UVIS system protruded slightly above the road surface. This led to occasional damage during the winter months from passing snowplows. Drainage issues in the vaults also resulted in standing water that threaten to take multiple UVIS systems out of commission.

In early 2010 the system’s manufacturer introduced a new model which security officials hoped would correct some of the issues. The solution, however, would not fit in the existing vaults and Federal regulations prohibited further excavation. When the manufacturer was unwilling to explore other solutions, frustrated security officials turned to Advanced Detection.

“They had seen our LowCam video-based technology during a product demonstration in Fairfax County Virginia and were intrigued by the possibilities,” explained Chris Carpenter, Advanced Detection Director of Sales in North and South America.

LowCam VI150

The LowCam portfolio features small video cameras that are completely enclosed and protected within a compact housing that can withstand up to 20 tons per axle. The system captures and displays the full undercarriage of the vehicle in real-time. Security personnel can rewind, zoom and analyze the video as needed. The footage of each vehicle is stored as a video file and can be automatically labeled using LowCam’s integrated automatic license plate recognition capabilities.

Technology and Flexibility Prove Key

After meeting with Carpenter and Advanced Detection engineers, the security team zeroed in on the LowCam VI150. The in-ground UVIS features six motion-activated cameras, active LPR and optional Foreign object Detection (FoD). The system automatically scans its LPR database and, for returning vehicles, displays footage from the exact vehicle’s last visit alongside the current view.

The clincher, so far as the security team was concerned, was Advanced Detection’s flexibility and willingness to work to adapt their solution to the parameters of the project. “By re-configuring our hardware, we were able to easily fit the VI150 into their existing vaults, with plenty of room to spare,” Carpenter said. The extra space enabled Advanced Detection engineers to outfit the vault with a dedicated sump pump to take care of the drainage problems.

The Facility wasted no time in requesting a bid proposal for seven VI150 systems plus two VI110 portable units for training purposes. Once the bid was accepted and approved, work proceeded quickly. A trusted local contractor handled removal of the old systems, installing the new systems and training security personnel. Within three months, the new UVIS systems were up and have been running flawlessly ever since.

Advanced Detection Reports Rapid Growth in Line-Scan Replacement

LowCam real time video

Currently, Advanced Detection, which introduced real-time video to the UVIS sector in 2003, remains the largest provider of the technology. Not surprisingly, a large part of their business is replacing older line-scan solutions as they start to fail. That business is not industry-limited; recently, it has included facilities such as the Fort Bragg Military Base, a major nuclear installation in Virginia, the New York Transit Authority and the World Trade Center.

Carpenter points to evolving technology as a major reason why clients may be switching from the bulky and more expensive static line-scan camera systems to smaller, more flexible, faster and cost-efficient video technology.

“At this point, both technologies enable you to see what’s going on underneath the vehicle with very good detail. So clients are looking for all those other variables—deployment flexibility, processing speed, training, maintenance requirements and the cost of consumables—in order to choose the solution that makes the best business case,” Carpenter explains.

As technology continues to evolve, especially in the design of smaller, more powerful IP video cameras and higher video compression rates, the UVIS industry is expected to continue trending toward video-based security. In addition to a more compact and virtually maintenance-free design, the technology lends itself to highly portable UVIS systems. Advanced Detection, for example, recently introduced their LowCam VI54, a full-function UVIS that weighs in at a svelte seven pounds, can be carried in a backpack and deployed by a single individual in less than 60 seconds.

For security officials at The Facility, Fort Bragg and a host of other high-sensitivity installations, that type of cost-efficient flexibility—that doesn’t compromise security—is a game-changer.