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Single European Secure Air-cargo Space

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Inspection technology for next-generation screening solutions to enhance air cargo security

The air cargo industry has always found it difficult to strike a perfect balance between the needs of security while facilitating the smooth flow of trade.

Transport and Mobility

‘It is essential that cargo screening, no matter how thorough, does not delay the movement of legitimate trade,’ says Dr Caldeira-Saraiva, project coordinator for the EU-funded project EUROSKY (Single European secure air-cargo space). Industry and air cargo security stakeholders are seeking a harmonised solution that not only secures air supply chains, from receiving to loading passenger cargo, but also maintains a high level of security without stoppages to keep cargo flow unimpeded at all times. Novel approaches to air cargo inspection, screening and control Air cargo today is screened using conventional single- or dual-view dual-energy systems. They help to distinguish between organic materials such as explosives, inorganic ones and metal. However, these systems cannot differentiate between benign organic substances and explosives. This leads to numerous alarms that need to be resolved. EUROSKY replaced traditional X-ray technology with an innovative system that uses true multi-energy spectroscopic X-ray sensors in place of conventional scintillators. ‘The resulting air cargo inspection system demonstrates significant improvement over existing capabilities by providing greater penetration of dense cargo, better image resolution and first-of-its-kind material discrimination,’ notes Mark McCarthy of Rapiscan. The new X-ray systems are undergoing the necessary homologation before being commercialised. The automation of cargo screening is much more difficult to achieve than that of checked baggage. To improve screening performance and facilitate the flow of trade without compromising security, it is crucial to develop mechanisms that can rapidly and accurately address any alarm raised by the primary X-ray system. ‘To achieve this, EUROSKY developed a method to capture vapours that emanate from both military and improvised explosives,’ explains Dr Richard Sleeman of Mass Spec Analytical. ‘In just a few seconds, it analyses vapours using a transportable mass spectrometer.’ The sensitivity is one order of magnitude above that of current systems. One of the two mass spectrometers developed by EUROSKY is already available and used by border agencies in North America. The second will arrive on the market at the end of 2017. It will be the first such high-resolution portable instrument for accurate mass measurements in the field that promises to considerably increase the number of substances that can be detected. Another key innovation is real-time logistics and supply chain software. Air freight operators are able to achieve very large efficiency improvements and cost savings, while benefiting from the increased security provided by the developed screening solutions. Terrorist schemes such as the printer cartridge bomb plot in 2010 were foiled through the sharing and analysing of information and not from screening efforts. ‘EUROSKY improves this area by demonstrating how results from the open source data analysis, specifically from social media platforms such as Twitter, can be integrated into the risk assessment of air cargo,’ says Dr Caldeira-Saraiva. Securing air supply chains for seamless goods flow EUROSKY technological solutions offer major benefits across the entire air cargo supply chain. ‘The real-time air cargo supply chain optimisation and security tools enable airlines and cargo handlers to better manage disruptions and operational issues, reduce queues, boost throughput and optimise resources,’ emphasises Dr Julian Stephens of MJC2 Ltd. ‘Queue reduction is becoming increasingly important for major cargo terminals and vital to maintaining the competitiveness of European airports and the goods exported via these hubs,’ Dr Caldeira-Saraiva adds. ‘Increased throughput and resource optimisation results in increased capacity without massive investment in infrastructure.’


Air cargo security, cargo screening, EUROSKY, cargo inspection, mass spectrometer

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