Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

ACES Report Summary

Project ID: 672001

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ACES (ACES: Air Cargo Explosive Screener)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2016-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Terrorist activity increased by 80 per cent in 2014 to its highest recorded level (data for 2015 is not yet available, but initial estimates point to a considerable increase with respect to 2014). The largest ever year-on-year increase in deaths from terrorism was recorded in 2014, rising from 18,111 in 2013 to 32,685 in 2014. The number of people who have been killed by terrorists has increased nine-fold since the year 2000 . In addition, there are noteworthy tendencies, such as suicide bombings, causing 24% of all victims in 2014 in comparison with an average of only 5% in the period 1970-2013, as well as massive attacks (causing 100 or more casualties), with 28 attacks in 2014, compared to an annual average of 3.7 between 1970-2013.
In this context, airports and aircrafts bombing are a particular type of terrorism of increasing concern. As noted by the Centre of Strategy and Evaluation in 2011 , “there is a clear threat to public security from suicide bombers and explosive devices in luggage and mail packages”.
According to EU legislation, air cargo which flies onboard passenger aircrafts must be screened in order to warrant absence of explosives before departure.
The objective of the ACES project is the formal certification of an explosive screener for air cargo based upon vapour detection. This screener is able to detect ultralow traces of explosive vapours in large freight containers in a matter of minutes, with a very high Probability of Detection, a very low False Alarm rate, and very significant improvements in costs and time with respect to state-of-the-art equipments. The certification process will be pursued in the EU, USA and Israel, according with the specific requirements defined by their respective security legislations.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Work performed can be described as follows:
Informal tests: Informal tests were planned to take place in the port of Vigo (North West of Spain). However, burocratic authorizations have obliged to postpone the operational tests, until an Agreement might be reached with Spanish Customs, which has for the time being not authorized air to be extracted from maritime containers. Negotiations are under way with the Spanish Customs and the Guardia Civil, in order to obtain the required authorizations.
In order to solve this problem, SEDET has developed a simulated environment in the surroundings of the SEDET laboratory, where these informal tests have been developed for this initial year. The aim of the simulated environment is to substitute large volumes with small volumes, controlling conditions proportionally. Instead of using 80 m3 containers, the simulated environment is based upon 1 m3 cardboard boxes. In order to sample explosive quantities similar to those that might be found in large volume freight, the soaking time and the sampling time are reduced accordingly. This method is totally valid to study some specific behaviors of vapors inside a volume such as the effect of temperature, humidity, amount of explosive, etc.
Based upon the above described simulated environment, several tests were carried out in order to optimize the Probability of Detection (PoD) and the False Alarm Rate (FAR) of the different explosives. These tests were carried prior and after the development of the additional capabilities.
Israel Certification: The Israeli program aimed at evaluation of the vapour detection technology in collaboration with SEDET began before the ACES program. It was divided into a Phase I assessment, which was completed in late 2015, a Phase II tests, included within the ACES program, which were carried out in Tel-Aviv Airport during the first quarter of 2016, and a Phase III tests which is still pending. Phase II tests has been completed, and the tests were successful. The tests took place in the Ben Gurion Airport (Israel) for one month, with the full system installed in the facilities of the airport. Tests were carried out in collaboration with IPMO (Israel Primer Minister Office) staff and SEDET staff. The deliverable was submitted with a thorough analysis of the results.
Phase III tests have not started yet, and these tests are pending upon the decision which might be taken by the US, since the Israeli Agency is working with the US TSL in order to join efforts in the field of explosive detection. The decision to launch the Phase III tests is dependent upon the decision of the IPMO.
USA Certification: The informal tests by the US Security Laboratory (TSL) have been accomplished in this initial year. SEDET was selected as one of the three companies which participated in the final series of tests, carried out between August and September 2016. The task has progressed according to planning.
EU Certification: The ECAC Study group is working on the protocol definition, and present planning contemplates that the Pilot tests will be developed around mid-2017, according to schedule.
Performance improvements: SEDET is currently working on the development of the new capabilities required to meet the technical requirements. These capabilities are an increase in the resolution power of the DMA, and an increase in sensitivity, in order to improve the capacity of separation among interferents. These tasks are progressing according to planning.
Detection of new compounds: Security agencies have asked for the detection of two new substances. Detection of one of the two new threats has been completed. This task is progressing according to planning.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Progress beyond state-of-the-art
User Requirements
User Requirements for air cargo explosive screening can be synthesized as follows:
1. Screening for cargo must be done in a single step (ULD pallets, containers and complete trucks up to 110 m3), done at the airport entrance. This type of screening is known as “large freight screening”,
2. Detection of all explosives in amounts much lower than 1 kg per cargo load (the exact figure is classified),
3. Very high Probability of Detection (PoD),
4. Very low False Alarm Rate (FAR),
5. No Operator “interpretation”, and
6. Cost per kg lower than present operation
If we analyze the previous criteria, it is possible to conclude that:
1. Requirements 2 and 5 can only be met by a molecular detection method. X-Rays are not a molecular detection method, since they are only able to classify materials in two or three broad categories (organic and metal, essentially).
2. Requirement nº 1 cannot be met by current ETDs , hence EVD (Explosive Vapour Detection) is the method of choice.
3. Requirements 1 to 3 call for a very high sensitivity, while requirement 4 requires a very high resolution.
4. Requirement 5 is automatically met if detection is automatic.
5. Requirement 6 is also met if complete trucks can be screened without unloading them.
The technical challenge for EVDs lies in the fact that the physics underlying vapour detection are still partially unknown, so a debate is open over the sensitivity and resolution levels needed in order to comply with requirements 1 to 4. This challenge, which has been unsolved for decades, has recently been solved by ACES, as proved by the informal and formal tests made in the last years by National Laboratories and Security Agencies, in the EU, Israel and US. Results from these tests have led to a new theory about the physics of vapour detection at sensitivities on the order of 1 ppq , which presents relevant differences with the known behavior of vapour pressure at state-of-the-art sensitivities (1 ppt, equivalent to 10-12 atm).
We conclude that ACES complies with the complete set of User needs: 1) large freight screening, 2) detection of minute quantities of explosives, 3) High PoD, 4) Low FAR, 5) Automatic operation and 6) Much lower operation costs.
Life cycle costs
ACES reduces very significantly state-of-the-art explosive screening costs. In order to argument the point, we will analyze initially present cost, and then present ACES costs.
Cost of state-of-the-art technology
In order to evaluate the cost of current screening solutions, two methodologies will be followed: 1) study costs as defined in the USA legislation, and 2) study of real screening costs of operators at Heathrow airport.
• The US “Air Cargo Screening Final Rule” incorporates a Regulatory Evaluation which includes an estimation of screening costs for industry. In Page 40, the report reads as follows: “TSA uses data regarding actual costs to U.K. shippers as proxies, as this will better account for adjustments made to adapt to the new environment. Discussions with officials in the U.K. Department for Transport, along with information from British shipping agents, suggest that IACs charge shippers a fee of approximately $0.039 to $0.054 per pound of cargo”. A foot note to this sentence clarifies that such costs are a translation of a UK cost between 5 and 7 pence/kg If we use the mean value (6 pence/kg, and the currency exchange rate of 0.81 EUR/GBP, a cost of 0.074 Euros/kg results, equivalent to 74 Euros/Tm.)
• As relates to real screening costs of operators at Heathrow and Barajas (Madrid) Airports, a market research has been conducted with screening companies in both locations. According to this market research, screening costs in Heathrow escalates from around 4.50 UK p/kg - equivalent to 54 €/Tm - for dedicated specialized companies screening between 10,000 and 20,000 Tm/year, to around 10 p/kg - equivalent to 120 €/Tm – for the cargo companies themselves. Typical rates in Barajas are around 90 Euros/Tm, although discounts for frequent customers can reach 30%.
Conclusion is that real costs are aligned - and even higher in some cases- with those stated in the US Regulatory Evaluation. The lowest real cost, i.e., 54 €/Tm, will be taken as reference.
ACES costs
Annual ACES screening operation costs, based upon an operator with an annual volume of 100,000 Tm, are the following:
EVD capital cost: 1 M €, to be amortized over 8 years,
Annual maintenance cost: 10% of acquisition cost
Consumables cost: =2 €/truck with a total of 25,000 trucks per year (68 trucks per day),
Personnel cost: 20 €/hour with 3 shift of 8 h each per day, 2 operators in one shift and 1 operator in the 2 other shifts. Total: 11,680 hours/year
Total costs per year are 733,600 Euros, equivalent to 7.3 Euros/Tm, to be compared with the 54 Euros/Tm of state-of-the-art equipment, a cost decrease per Tm by a factor of 7.
Potential impact
Socioeconomic
The ACES project meets a series of unique characteristics (harsh social problem to solve, solid R&D background to solve it, engagement of optimum stakeholders and low development risk) which enables the achievement of a huge impact not only upon SEDET, but in the security of the aviation field at large.
As relates to SEDET, ACES will be key for company success. The present plan contemplates a turnover close to 50 million Euros five years after program end, to be compared with a turnover close to null at present since the equipment is still at the certification stage, and an increase in the staff number by a factor of 5.
Social impact
Impacts will also be very relevant at the scientific level, since the ACES technology is considerably superior to present state-of-the-art, and has allowed presentation of more than 15 new patents (most of them prior to initiation of the ACES project, but based on the same technology).
Impact will not remain in a scientific or technological scope, but will extend to the society at large. As a matter of fact, around 3,500 billion enplanements take place every year in the world, which numerically equals to half of the world population. Indeed, air travel is an essential element of business and leisure activities worldwide. Nevertheless, after decades of unfruitful research and development, we still have no-reliable systems to face the increasing terrorist threat. Owing to its outstanding performance and non-intrusive characteristics, ACES will genuinely solve this problem, contributing to maintain and enhance the perception of air travelling as a secure and comfortable activity, with an undoubted positive effect over the global economy and social wellbeing at large.

Related information

Record Number: 194913 / Last updated on: 2017-02-16