Aviation Pass system tracks unauthorized aircraft use

 - September 13, 2006, 4:07 PM

ADT has developed and is testing a private aircraft security system known as Aviation Pass. The system sends out an alarm if an equipped airplane is moved by anyone not authorized to do so.

A radio frequency-based identification (RFID) tag is installed in the aircraft and an associated RFID card (perhaps in the form of a key fob) is issued to everyone authorized to have access to the aircraft, including an FBO if the owner chooses.

The RFID tag emits a unique, encrypted identification every microsecond to tag readers situated around the airport. When moving the aircraft, the crew, pilot or other authorized person wears an RFID tag that is uniquely associated with that aircraft. The system can identify any number of tagged aircraft or personnel and report changes of tag location as the aircraft moves past sensors strategically placed around the airport.

If the aircraft tag and the operator tag are not in proximity when the aircraft moves outside a predetermined area, the system sends an alert to ADT’s nationwide call-monitoring service in Colorado, which then notifies the owner and/or airport officials, FBO and law enforcement.

If a tagged aircraft moves outside a protected area or across a chokepoint leading to a taxiway without an associated authorized personnel tag, the software generates an alarm similar to a commercial or home alarm system.

The RFID chips are readable from distances of up to 1,000 feet, depending on the positioning of the receiving sensors for each zone. ADT says that the 433-MHz frequency used to transmit information from RFID chips to receivers will not interfere with airport radio or navigation system signals.

The RFID tags contain a tamper device and are powered by five-year batteries. The airport RFID tag reader is solar-powered and contains a wireless modem and batteries in a maintenance-free housing. A head-end server is located inside a building on the airport. It contains application software and connects via DSL to ADT and any local or remote monitoring stations.

J. Leonard Wood, manager of aviation services for ADT Security Services, said the Aviation Pass is being tested at Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida, Centennial Airport near Denver and the University of Illinois-Willard Airport in Champaign/Urbana, Ill. He expects testing to be completed by next month and product rollout before the end of the year.

Airport operators or FBOs purchase the Aviation Pass system from ADT as a capital item, with RFID tags and monitoring/notification included in the base price. A typical GA airport could be covered with three to four zones. The cost of the equipment is about $40,000 installed.

Ensuring Airport Security
While the theft of aircraft from general aviation airports is not a common occurrence, there have been some high-profile cases. In February two teenagers were injured after crashing a stolen airplane in California. In another incident a Cessna Citation was stolen last year from a Florida airport and found two days later in Georgia.

According to ADT, Aviation Pass complies with GA airport security guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security and its Transportation Security Administration.
Centennial Airport is beginning to market Aviation Pass to based tenants and companies. Users will pay a monthly monitoring fee and the airport will pay for the installation of the RFID monitoring system.

In addition to security benefits, Aviation Pass allows airports to raise revenue by charging aircraft owners and operators fees for the security badge, monitoring and security system registration and use.

Senior editor Matt Thurber contributed to this article.