Focused Footage at the FBO

Aug. 29, 2013
Adding a digital surveillance system helps Millennium Aviation secure assets, safeguard staff and passengers, and shield itself from false liability claims

Millennium Aviation is no small potato in the fixed-base operator (FBO) market. The Reading, Pa. firm operates its regional FBO and charter operation out of 1 million square feet of ramp space and two corporate hangars offering a combined 80,000 square feet of storage. And, on any given day, the 30-employee-strong Millennium Aviation team services as many as 30 transient aircraft and a handful of charter flights.

“We have more than $100 million worth of aircraft sitting on our ramp on any given day, which we are responsible for,” says Peter Knight, CEO and owner of Millennium Aviation. “We also have a fuel farm on-site where we maintain approximately 24,000 gallons of Jet-A fuel inventory and 12,000 gallons of Avgas.”

With high-dollar assets such as these on-site, a solid and reliable security system is an absolute must; it may even be a requirement clients expect.

“More and more high-dollar, large aircraft are visiting our facility, and they need extra care and handling, making a reliable surveillance system an absolute necessity,” Knight says. “In fact, one of our major transient customers requested that we have a state-of-the-art system in place so that they know their assets are fully monitored when they visit.”

To that end, Millennium Aviation recently added an Avigilon high-definition (HD) video surveillance system to secure aircraft, safeguard staff and passengers, and protect itself against false liability claims. The FBO selected Avigilon, a Vancouver, B.C.-headquartered technology firm, because it specialized in HD surveillance systems, network video management software and high-megapixel digital IP surveillance cameras providing the utmost in resolution and quality.

Rick Ramsay, senior manager of product strategy at Avigilon, says securing FBOs is a growing market for them. “We see the most interest from potential customers who can immediately see the value and benefit of higher resolution and better quality video,” he says. “Customers, like FBOs, that have high-dollar assets to protect, especially with high insurance liability, really benefit from this type of system.”

Knight points out it can be “very difficult and costly” to get insurance in the FBO business and stresses that a HD surveillance system can make a tremendous difference. “Such a system gives underwriters the assurance that they are making a safe investment,” he explains. “Deductibles can range from $10,000 to $50,000 for FBOs that have experienced a lot of liability issues or security breaches.”

Millennium Aviation’s new security system has already positively impacted the firm’s insurance costs. In fact, the $95,000 investment substantially reduced insurance premiums, says Knight.

SUBHEAD: Digital Eyes

While a security system is nothing new to Millennium Aviation (it’s actually had three systems over the last 10 years), Knight describes the new system as “the most user-friendly, viable and capable system” they’ve ever had.

Millennium Aviation has definitely come a long way since it added its first, old-fashioned VHS recording system, where they had to physically remove VHS tapes and exchange them with new ones on a weekly basis. In 2006, the FBO upgraded to a Linux-based system—state of the art for the time, but now somewhat dated. That system included an automatic focusing and aiming PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) camera. “The system had intelligent software that would direct the PTZ to locations and zoom in and out accordingly,” Knight says. While this arrangement worked fairly well, for many years, the company that installed and maintained it for them went out of business leaving Millennium Aviation without tech support.

The FBO originally approached The Wire Guys of Alburtis, Pa., to provide tech support for its existing system. But The Wire Guys President Michael Miller talked to them about upgrading to an Avigilon system instead.

The resulting system added approximately 20 Avigilon 5-megapixel cameras throughout the FBO main entrance, lobby, hangar, parking lots, and fuel storage areas, and a 29-megapixel camera on the airport ramp. “Installing the 29-megapixel camera allows us to videotape and scope in on the entire ramp with one camera that can zoom in on any location we want it to,” says Knight.

The primary advantage of the 29-megapixel camera actually comes from its high definition capabilities, says Knight. “We have much better resolution when we want to manually zoom in on an image,” he says. “With video systems of the past, it was tough to make out what was really on camera. It looked like you were monitoring shadows not individuals.”

Miller agrees, “There are no grainy images like you might see on television, when someone robs a local convenience store.”

According to Knight, the 29-megapixel camera was well worth the investment. This is a “serious tool,” he says, and one that will more than pay for itself over a five-year period. “And you can’t put a price on the protection it provides,” he adds.

The Wire Guys are currently installing a second 29-megapixel camera to the system and revamping remaining PTZ cameras to further boost security, says Miller.

SUBHEAD: Searchable Storage

Images can be clear as daylight, but they are rendered meaningless without an efficient way to store and search captured footage, says Ramsay.

Millennium Aviation’s system uses the Avigilon Control Center (ACC) network video management software with High-Definition Stream Management™ technology. Employees also use ACC Mobile to view live and recorded images wirelessly from anywhere on the network, and employ an Avigilon network video recorder (NVR) to store up to 30 days of continuous coverage, though currently Miller states there are actually three-months of video footage stored on Millennium Aviation’s 15-terabyte server because the cameras only record when there is motion detected..

“A nice advantage is we can deliver footage efficiently to mobile devices, which helps Millennium Aviation managers use that data to run their business more effectively,” says Ramsay.

The software tools in place allow Millennium users to get detailed information when an event occurs. This is a significant reason why such a system makes sense, Ramsey adds, noting that the system can prevent theft, and protect the FBO from potential liability from an event they may have had nothing to do with. In previous months, there was a claim regarding an aircraft towing movement. Millennium Aviation officials viewed video footage to learn how the aircraft was moved and to make sure employees moved it properly. “There was the potential for about a $30,000 claim,” says Knight. “Because of the footage, we didn’t have a claim at all.”

Avigilon really shines in its ability to search video quickly and easily, according to Miller. “You can sit down and within 5 minutes, without training, be searching through live video. It’s very intuitive software to use.”

The searchability of video footage is second to none, Knight agrees. Video footage can be searched by pixel or by thumbnails. With a pixel search, the user highlights the area of the image they want to see and searches for motion events in that area. They may also highlight an area within a thumbnail image and search that way. “Searching video is easy, intuitive, and dare I say, fun,” says Miller. Once users find the event they are looking for, they can capture that event and export it in a format that can be easily viewed by others.

The system’s remote viewing capabilities are also a benefit, adds Knight. Managers can coordinate with line service workers, and direct employees remotely to meet incoming/outgoing customers’ specific needs. “We can easily watch and monitor cameras from an iPad, iPhone or an Android digital device,” he says. “The searchability is a little more limited but it does provide good live video in real time.”

Millennium Aviation has even used the system’s remote viewing capabilities to train staff in various techniques. When there are new personnel or personnel are operating new pieces of equipment, managers can view video footage as employees work and train them from wherever they are. “In one instance I was able to work with the operator via cell phone to give him better instructions on the areas he needed to operate the equipment on,” says Knight. “That saved an incredible amount of time. I was able to coordinate and train immediately versus having to wait and have that discussion at a later date.”

The FBO even uses the system to determine when snow removal is needed, monitor weather conditions and more. “They are finding new and innovative ways to use the system, other than just for security,,” says Stephanie Von Zuben, Avigilon communications specialist.

When millions of dollars of assets are on the line, it pays for companies like Millennium Aviation to add focused footage to their FBOs. An HD surveillance system packs a tremendous punch in the form of premium savings, liability protection, secured assets, safe employees and more.