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Modern airport detection technology has been in service for more than 15 years. The metal detectors. X-ray machines, trace detectors and body scanners airports and air cargo facilities operated today haven't evolved much since the immediate aftermath of the attacks upon the US on September 11, 2001.

So, with IATA forecasting passenger growth doubling from 2017 levels to 7.8 billion by 2036, and air cargo growing at nearly 5% annually until 2022, how will explosives detection technology adopt to the flurry of new threats? The answer is multi-layered.

Checkpoint automation and accuracy

Capacity constraints combined with rapid passenger growth are driving the US Transport Security Administration (TSA) to reconfigure checkpoints with technology that was previously used exclusively for the screening of hold baggage.

Automated screening lanes (ASLs)--common in Europe but currently being tested in a handful of US airport terminals--are TSA's response to long checkpoint lines and enhanced security requirements.

By automating bin/tray distribution, collection and separation of bags for additional screening, these new lanes will "speed up the checkpoint without compromising security", according to TSA spokesperson Mike England.

He explained that, starting in late 2018 with a "slow trickle", ASLs will be deployed with new cabin baggage screening systems leveraging computed tomography (CT) technology

Long considered the gold standard technology for screening hold baggage in the US and a growing number of other countries, CT was previously deemed too big, slow and expensive for the checkpoint despite its superior imaging capabilities.

After previous technology was rushed into deployment without proper operational testing, most notably explosives trace-detection portals commonly known as 'puffer' machines, TSA will proceed--cautiously--with deployment.

"Ensuring the systems are capable of handling real-time operations is essential and TSA isn't going to rush deployment and risk security," said Mr England. "Initially, the same rules for prohibited items at the checkpoint will remain in place." The TSA anticipates the rollout will take several years.

Open competition and development

Whether it's restrictions on liquids, secondary screenings or taking off your shoes, airports and passengers have grown accustomed to enhanced security measures. To speed up the checkpoint process without impacting security and other processes, cabin baggage divestiture must be reduced.

In anticipation of ASLs becoming standard in the US and throughout the world, fierce long-term competition is under way to deliver the most capable and operationally feasible checkpoint CT screener.

Analogic Corporation last year introduced its second checkpoint CT system--ConneCT. Its first, developed and launched in 2007, was widely tested but not deployed commercially. Since then, the company's R&D has placed an emphasis on making the system economically sustainable and scalable.

Mark Laustra, the company's VP, global business development and government relations said: "In addition to size and weight, we focused on the operational challenges faced as passenger traffic grows and checkpoint space becomes more constraint."

Citing noise as a major concern for airport customers, ConneCT has been engineered with "rollers instead of bearings that not only last longer but are quiet where bearings get louder over time" said Mr Laustra.

The significantly higher cost of CT technology compared to legacy 2D checkpoint X-ray systems was a major factor in preventing the previous system's development and deployment. However, the cost is something Analogic believes can be justified in part by open network architecture for third-party algorithms on its Conned machine.

"You'll see new algorithms that can automatically identify prohibited items, such as knives, firearms and hazardous materials, developed by both original equipment manufacturers and third-party software houses," said Mr Laustra.

"Adding new algorithms to the CT systems in an open architecture will give government regulators new tools on existing platforms to respond to new threats from around the world."

The ClearScan checkpoint CT cabin baggage screening system, developed by L3 Security and Detection Systems, was the first to achieve EU Standard C3 for cabin baggage screening--meaning laptops and liquids don't have to be divested at the checkpoint.

While ClearScan isn't compatible with third-party algorithms, according to William McGann, vice president & general manager, L3 Security & Detection Systems, it comes down to "developing enterprise-networked architectures that support the harmonisation of the CONOPS [concept of operations] between hold baggage and checked baggage"

Securing new CONOPS

Recognising a new security paradigm where a passenger will be processed--along with both their carry on and checked baggage-from point of origin to destination with tightly coupled security technologies, L3 is currently trialling new applications that focus on secure network communications.

In one ongoing trial, said Mr McGann, the hold baggage has passed the explosives test and has been loaded onto the aircraft. "While the plane is in the air, bag scans are reviewed for contraband or taxable items. When the passenger reaches their destination, the pre-cleared bags don't need to go through customs again," he explained.

Having security personnel review images remotely isn't a new idea by any means, but with new abilities to collect and securely transmit data, the practice has potential to speed up screening and enhance accuracy.

This is made possible, according to Analogic's Mr Laustra, by the imaging capabilities of advanced CT: "The future of security technology doesn't get much better than today's 3D image with powerful algorithms for the automatic detection of explosives. This will be the technology-of-choice for the next ten years."

The technology has already completed a trial at Tokyo's Narita Airport and similar tests are ongoing at Amsterdam Schiphol and London Heathrow. American Airlines has announced New York JFK as among its destinations that will test one of the ConneCT systems it has purchased.

Multi-layered air cargo technology

Following implementation of TSA's Certified Cargo Screening Program, all itmes of air cargo transported on passenger aircraft are currently being screened by a qualified solution.

In May 2018, to help air cargo companies and freight forwarders prepare for upcoming ICAO screening guidelines calling for screening of all cargo by 2021--including all cargo carriers and freight forwarders -TSA announced it was accepting applications to use screening dogs within the Third-Party Canine Cargo (3PK9-C) Program.

Until August 29, 2018, organisations could apply to be a third-party canine-cargo certifying organisation. Once approved, they in turn assess third-party explosives detection canine teams to determine whether they meet the TSA's standards for screening air cargo.

The TSA said the result will see 3PK9-C teams "deployed to screen air cargo for aircraft operators, foreign air carriers and other TSA-regulated parties operating under a TSA-approved or accepted security program".

While canines have long been a fixture at airports to detect explosives and narcotics, new training methods for both the K9 and handler are focused on the operational rigours and variables associated with air cargo.

"K9s have primary capabilities that other options including X-ray and ETD system don't," explained Jennifer Haigh, cargo screening business development manager at K2 Solutions, Inc. "K9s are trained to disregard visual and secondary odour distractors as they search for, detect and give a final response to a target odour."

Despite the dogs' abilities, Ms Haigh, an air cargo industry veteran who has worked with manufacturer's, global airlines and freight forwarders for over ten years, is quick to acknowledge there is no silver bullet for air cargo screening. "It takes a multi-layered approach with different technologies to meet the unique needs of the air cargo industry--which include a range of products from pharmaceuticals to fresh produce potentially on each flight."
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Author:Factor, Scott
Publication:Airports International
Date:Oct 1, 2018

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