Towards a secure future

Initiatives to enhance aviation security are being developed around the world as industry and governments accept that the current, multi-layered approach isn’t working. Emma Kelly reports. The original Chicago Convention of 1944 didn’t include security measures: at that time, no-one saw the need.

9th May 2011


 Towards a secure future

 Initiatives to enhance aviation security are being developed around the world as industry and governments accept that the current, multi-layered approach isn’t working. Emma Kelly reports.

The original Chicago Convention of 1944 didn’t include security measures: at that time, no-one saw the need.

By the mid-1970s, however, aviation security threats had become a serious issue, and provisions to tackle the problem were first introduced by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) under Annex 17 at that time.

As the threat has changed and evolved, the Chicago Convention’s security measures have been improved and updated 11 times, with a 12th amendment approved by the ICAO Council and expected to become applicable in July.

As recently as February, 14 ICAO member states at a regional aviation security conference in New Delhi adopted a roadmap to further protect global air transport from terrorist and other security threats. The roadmap calls for states to ensure: that security staff are properly trained and equipped; that air-cargo security be enhanced by working with Customs authorities towards common goals; and that assistance should be provided to states that need it.

The New Delhi conference followed the unanimous adoption at the ICAO assembly last October of an ICAO Declaration on Aviation Security designed to deal with known, new and emerging threats to civil aviation.

 Global solutions

“Terrorism is a global problem that requires global solutions,” said ICAO secretary general Raymond Benjamin. ICAO is planning a global security conference next year at its Montreal headquarters to address new and emerging security threats.

While aviation security is the responsibility of the state, airlines and passengers end up footing a US$5.9 billion annual security bill, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This includes: US$2.4 billion per annum for fraud and theft prevention, audits and emergency planning; US$1.6 billion for passenger operations security; and US$1.8 billion for aircraft protection.

But the ever-growing security bill and recent terrorist attacks on aviation, such as the bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport in January, suggest that the current multi-layered security approach is not working and that new approaches and technology are required to tackle the ever-changing security threat. Governments and industry are fighting back with a raft of new initiatives to ensure the safety of the aviation industry of the future.

IATA believes there is a need for a new concept in passenger security screening, which would stress enhanced security at the same time as improving throughput efficiency.

“Today’s global screening paradigm tends to be a ‘one size fits all’,” said Kenneth Dunlap, IATA’s director of security and travel facilitation. Passengers with an elevated travel risk use the same security lanes as frequent fliers and everyone else, as passenger data is not used at the checkpoint to make intelligent screening decisions, he added.

“This paradigm has created long lines, inconvenienced passengers and generally not resulted in higher detection levels of threatening objects,” Dunlap said.

IATA also questions whether today’s checkpoints can handle predicted passenger traffic growth, particularly in high-growth regions such as China and India. IATA expects 2.5 billion passengers to fly this year –120 million more than in 2010 – with steady 5.5 percent annual growth forecast through to 2013 and an annual 16 billion passengers by 2050.

“But as more people return to the skies, the evidence shows that the throughput of today’s checkpoints [is] decreasing,” said Dunlap, with passenger screening systems already beginning to show their age. At the same time, the aviation security system needs to maintain the confidence of a sophisticated travelling public and the signs of discontent are growing, he added, pointing to passengers becoming increasingly vocal about the inconvenience of security measures.


Passengers protest

“We are starting to see protests online driven by social media sites,” Dunlap said, pointing to passenger rights groups calling for a US national opt-out of body scanning last November, just a day before the busy Thanksgiving holiday.

IATA believes that new technology has a role in security screening but needs to be used within a redesigned checkpoint system.

“You just can’t put a new radio in a car and claim that you have a new car. What you have is an old car with a new radio,” Dunlap said. Body scanners do not fit with a 40 year old screening system, he said.

IATA believes there is a better way of screening passengers than exclusively relying on object finding, which has been the focus for the past 40 years. “We think that the future lies in a new paradigm – and that’s looking for bad people and not just bad objects,” says Dunlap.

IATA’s solution is the ‘Checkpoint of the Future’, which looks for bad people instead of bad objects, uses passenger data, screens passengers based on risk and provides an uninterrupted journey from door to door. In IATA’s vision, the checkpoint should create a total security picture of the traveller, “and not just a naked one” and combine physical screening at the airport with electronic pre-screening by governments before the flight to allow a board or no-board decision to be made.

Such an approach would allow passengers to be differentiated at the checkpoint and directed to different lanes, designated as ‘known traveller’, ‘regular’ and ‘enhanced security’ lanes. Screeners should use advanced behaviour detection through intelligent questioning of passengers based on the pre-screening information.

“IATA envisions an interruption-free passenger transit from curb to aircraft. Combining biometrics, stand-off screening and passenger data, travellers should walk uninterrupted through a tunnel of technology where security and customs processing occurs in a transparent manner,” said Dunlap.

 The way forward

IATA has been working with airlines, states and ICAO on its vision for more than a year. It has developed blueprints and a roadmap for the way forward.

“We are working with like-minded associations, manufacturers, academics and airlines to refine this concept. This needs to be a global effort,” said Dunlap. IATA has shared its concept with states and is encouraged that it has support to test components, he said, adding that IATA is pursuing intermediate steps as it waits for some of the technologies to mature.

“One of these steps is to repurpose and reintegrate existing technology into an intermediate checkpoint that is possible in the next two to three years,” said Dunlap. This reworked checkpoint will use existing hardware and will integrate several central elements of the Checkpoint of the Future, including passenger data, behaviour analysis and new screening lanes.

“IATA is committed to making air travel safe, secure and more enjoyable,” Dunlap said.
It is also committed to improving cargo security, which once again became a focus of attention last October when two explosive devices were found in airfreight shipments originating in Yemen. The devices were discovered in a UPS freighter at East Midlands International Airport in the UK and a FedEx facility in Dubai, and were intended to detonate in-flight.

IATA has called for a new approach to cargo security that includes the entire supply chain, but stresses that the wrong solution could damage the global economy, with 30 percent of the value of all goods shipped travelling by air. “IATA has ideas that can enhance security and prevent economic disruption,” Dunlap said.

A supply chain approach would ensure an item of cargo is protected from tampering from the time it is packed until the point of arrival, with shippers, forwarders, manufacturers and airlines all having responsibility for maintaining the security of air cargo. The system would provide flexibility for cargo to be screened at an appropriate point on its journey and transported securely, which would prevent creating choke points where cargo could be stalled or backed up.

According to Dunlap, this would also allow security to be tailored to the commodity being shipped, rather than using an inefficient ‘one-size-fits-all’ security approach.

 Supply-chain solution

IATA believes its Secure Freight programme, which is being piloted in Malaysia and Egypt, is a supply-chain solution that works. Secure freight aims to promote air cargo supply chain security standards, with the development of templates and documents, best practices and processes to secure the supply chain.

The industry association believes screening technology is also important, as it can complement effective intelligence and supply chain solutions. But the implementation of such technology is slow.

“We need governments to test and certify technology that can screen pallets and oversize items. There is some promising technology, but it is taking far too long to move from the laboratory to the airport,” said Dunlap.

The association has also called for the accelerated use of electronic data to help identify suspicious cargo. IATA has created a global message standard for cargo data transmission that can be used by states to evaluate cargo passing through their borders. It is also implementing its e-freight programme, which replaces paper shipping forms.

Meanwhile, the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI) is working with the Association of European Airlines on a Better Security project. ACI believes a more effective and sustainable aviation security regime is required, which includes detection, proven technology, deterrence, unpredictability and a more-effective use of intelligence. Rather than the current, reactive layered approach, the industry needs a risk management approach, according to ACI.

The group also advocates one-stop security, whereby a passenger and baggage undergoes one security check, even on a journey involving multiple airport transfers. This would speed the flow of transit passengers, but would require the mutual recognition of screening procedures. Like IATA, ACI also supports a secure supply chain approach to air cargo.

 Collaborative approach

ACI will present its Better Security solutions to the European Commission and ICAO this year. Like IATA, ACI believes a cross-industry collaborative approach is vital to improve security.

ICAO is bringing all such security initiatives together in its ‘Next Generation Security Process and Checkpoint’ project, which will explore new concepts for security screening. A technical advisory group is expected to be appointed shortly to run the project, while cargo security is already being studied by a separate working group within ICAO’s AVSEC panel.

In addition to initiatives by aviation bodies, there’s considerable activity from a technology perspective. A range of new airport security technology was recently demonstrated in the UK as part of the UK Government’s Innovative Science and Technology in Counter Terrorism (INSTINCT) programme.

Last year, Thales UK was appointed to lead the aviation security Technology Demonstrator 2 (TD2) project under the INSTINCT programme. The project was designed to identify and trial new technologies, solutions and ideas from small, medium or large-size businesses or academic institutions to enhance aviation security, Thales said.

“The threat to our security is real and is evolving, and technology can play a key role in reducing that threat. This project shows how the government is working with industry to find those innovative and emerging technologies,” UK Security Minister Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones said at the launch of the project.

TD2 was designed to discover, trial and showcase emerging security technologies, solutions and ideas, with the technology to be validated through trials. Last July, Thales launched the competition, seeking applications from industry and academia on any technology, solution or idea that could improve aviation security at any stage in the air travel process – from the point of planning and booking a trip through to boarding an aircraft. Ideally the technologies and solutions would improve or not affect passenger experience and airport revenue, says Thales.

The project started with an awareness and outreach programme, followed by a selection process to ensure sufficient applicability and maturity of proposed technologies and solutions. Thales received more than 300 expressions of interest, leading to 180 submissions. Some 20 of these were then selected by an independent panel of experts to be validated through trials both in simulated environments and at airports around the UK. For example, full-body scanners have been trialled at Manchester Airport while a walk-through explosive detection system was trialled at Glasgow Airport.

 Government presentation

Submissions of particular interest were presented to government officials, aviation and security experts in March, three months later than originally scheduled due to severe weather conditions in the UK in December.

The TD2 showcase involved the demonstration of more than 40 technologies and ideas considered to have the potential to significantly increase aviation security, at the same time as improving the passenger experience and airport revenues. The showcase covered all stages of land-side and air-side transition through an airport, including check-in, security and departures. The showcase also included a presentation and demonstration on how the technologies operate and could be implemented at existing airports throughout the world.

According to Thales, the showcase provided a realistic demonstration of the technologies. Participants were required to check in at a manned desk or fast check-in terminal, just as you would at a real airport, with the use of queuing and surveillance technologies for behaviour monitoring. They then went through a fully operational security-check process, including x-ray machines and a range of scanning technologies.

Further security enhancements were on display at the departure gate. A cargo zone also showcased the innovative cargo-scanning systems.

The technology on display included camera tracking, infra-red facial recognition, intelligent security queue management using a barcode reading solution, handheld body scanners to detect explosives, rapid footwear screening which doesn’t require the removal of shoes, electromagnetic liquid scanners and multi-spectral x-ray detectors.

The project “is now completed,” Thales said, with the company in late January having submitted a final report to the government, including detailed analysis of the trial results.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Australian Government late last year tested new technology to detect explosives in liquids, aerosols and gels at Sydney and Melbourne airports. The Liquids, Aerosols and Gels Advanced Technology Trial was conducted in conjunction with the United States and UK as part of an international approach to enhancing aviation security, the Australian Department of Infrastructure and Transport said. The results of the trial are designed to contribute to efforts to remove liquid restrictions on international flights in the future, the department said.

 Explosives detection

On trial were two types of equipment capable of detecting liquid-based explosives, advanced x-ray for carry-on baggage and bottled liquid scanners.

The tests were conducted between 24 November and 4 December at Melbourne Airport’s Terminal 4, and between 29 November and 10 December at Sydney Airport’s Terminal 2.
The equipment on trial at Melbourne Airport was the Rapiscan Advanced Technology 620DV x-ray inspection system, the CEIA EMA-3 liquid scanner and the Thermo Fisher Scientific Truscreen. The Rapiscan system uses a second x-ray scan perpendicular to the first, allowing screening officers to view baggage from multiple angles.

The additional data allows the system to use an automated algorithm to indicate the location of potential threats, including solid and liquid explosives in carry-on baggage by analysing material density using the independent views. Bags and trays are put on the conveyor belt, which feeds them through the system in the same way as baggage screeners do today.

The CEIA system uses electromagnetic fields to determine whether a liquid is innocuous or a potential threat. Bottles and other containers are placed in the bottle scanner. The electromagnetic fields generated by the device are weak in intensity and non-ionising so they are safe for liquids, according to the department. The TruScreen bottle scanner uses Raman spectroscopy to detect threat substances in liquids carried in containers.

The Sydney Airport trial involved the CEIA EMA-3 and two systems from Smiths Detection – the Hi-Scan 6040aTiX and the Responder BLS. The Hi-Scan x-ray inspection system uses automated explosive detection systems to detect explosives in carry-on baggage by analysis of the atomic weight and material density using four independent views. Bags and trays are put on the conveyor belt which feeds them through the system in the same way as existing baggage x-ray screeners. The Responder BLS is a desktop system that uses Raman spectroscopy technology to distinguish threat liquids from benign liquids.

“Over 7,000 people took part in the trial and overall passengers responded well to the trial,” the Department said. The data collected during the trial is being analysed to inform policy and screening process options and no further trials are planned at the moment. The government said a report on the trials will be released in the coming months, after which the decisions will be made on the use of such technology.

Government assistance

Under the Australian Government’s A$200 million (US$214 million) Strengthening Aviation Security initiative, A$28.5 million will be provided to assist the industry in introducing a range of new screening technologies, including next-generation multi-view x-ray machines and bottled-liquid scanners at passenger screening points at Australia’s eight international gateway airports. Assistance will initially be provided for equipment installation at international transit and transfer screening lanes, the government said.

Many in the industry look forward to the lifting of restrictions on the carriage of liquids and gels, but believe that the technology is not currently mature enough to allow this.

“The threat from liquid explosives and suicide terrorists is still very real and so any change needs to be considered in the context of a risk assessment,” says Craig Bradbrook, ACI’s director security and facilitation. “Liquid explosive detection [LED] systems should in due course allow for the routine screening of all LAGs and so the restrictions should be lifted. However, we do not yet consider the LEDs technology to be mature enough or sufficiently proven in an airport operational environment. False alarm rates of some equipment are too high.”



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