Edmonton International Airport (EIA) is leading the way in developing systems to protect the safety of its perimeter by introducing a new autonomous vehicle that offers an extra set of eyes around the miles of fencing that are hard to patrol in person.

I reported last month about the problems airports are facing in securing the vast areas of land away from the passenger terminals, which could prove an easy target to those intent on breaking onto airport property and causing danger.

In a recent example, a man scaled the fence at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and ran towards a Delta jet on a taxiway, before climbing onto its wing.

At EIA, a new all-terrain vehicle (ATV) was rolled out recently with the mission of providing an extra layer of security. Developed by the Alberta Centre for Advanced MNT Products (ACAMP), it resembles something between a Jeep and robot.

The vehicle is unarmed, but comes with cameras, lighting, and some complicated computer programming that will help it become autonomous.

"Safety and security is our number one priority at EIA and the autonomous ATV security vehicle will enhance our patrol of the perimeter fencing that secures the 7,000 acres of land at our airport," says Steve Maybee, EIA’s vice president of operations and infrastructure.

The ATV can be controlled remotely by members of the airport security team, giving them eyes on the perimeter and an authoritative presence to any would-be intruders. However, the brains in the machine will soon learn to navigate around the airport, avoiding obstacles and following the correct paths, much like an automatic vacuum cleaner or lawn mower.

It will be able to identify animals and humans on its patrols, as well as any damage to the fencing, signs of tampering or tunneling under the fence , and any foreign obstacles which may have been introduced to the airport property.

"The partnership with EIA has helped us build a customizable platform that uses the latest in artificial intelligence, telematics, communications and other technologies that has application worldwide," says Rosy Amlani, ACAMP’s CFO and vice-president of business development.

Whilst this tool is still in the developmental stage, and very much a product of Alberta’s push for development of autonomous transport possibilities, ACAMP, which collaborates with around 40 different companies, will soon be speaking to Raytheon in the United States to develop the ATV further. Steps include making it nonhackable, and turning it into a tool which could be rolled out to airports around the world.

Edmonton was previously a pioneer in using robotic birds to scare away live birds from its runways.

The airport revealed the new ATV as it hosted experts from around the world at the Smart Airports and Regions and Exhibition, which focused on the design, development and planning of airports.