12 Oct 2011

Does Your Airport Client Need High Speed Checked Baggage Screening?

The aviation industry is witnessing a transformation in the design and development of aviation hold baggage screening. This year, in alignment with their checked baggage re-capitalization program, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will be testing high speed explosives detection systems (EDS) for checked baggage screening for acquisition and deployment. Airports with growing traffic will need to understand the new possibilities available to them when planning for their checked baggage inspection systems (CBIS).

Today, an average TSA-approved in-line medium-speed checked baggage equipment can inspect about 500-600 bags per hour (bph). This currently deployed EDS equipment consists of technologies unable to cost effectively accommodate the expected growth at many airports over the next 10 to 20 years. In fact, maintaining and servicing current systems is becoming cost prohibitive as they near the end of their life-cycle. It is clear that the future holds a transition to faster, more affordable and technically evolved systems in order to keep aviation's busiest airport systems efficient and secure.

In the most recent version of the Planning Guidelines and Design Standards (PGDSv3.0) for Checked Baggage Inspection Systems, the TSA used the following statement of requirements and purposes to define high-volume or high speed EDS equipment installed with an in-line CBIS:

"The high-volume EDS machines are intended to provide solutions for airports that require fully automated in-line systems designed to handle very high peaks. High-volume EDS machines are estimated to achieve at least a throughput of 900 bph with a low false alarm rate. Also, these machines are expected to have improved image quality and better OSR operator tools (such as high resolution three-dimensional [3D] images of alarmed bags and alarmed objects, as well as density stripping tools). These OSR tools should enable operators to achieve higher clear rates."

Companies have responded to these requirements by engaging the airport industry to understand how to best design the next generation EDS systems for high-volume screening. As of today, there are four companies pursuing full TSA approval for high speed EDS equipment.

Why should airports learn about high speed screening?

Airport and their terminal consultants' involvement in the initial planning and design phase of the checked baggage inspection system is critical to the success of implementation and achieving the best balance of capital investment and operating cost. Airports do incur costs both in the construction and maintenance of the CBIS, and airports who participate in the planning have realized a better return on investment for their CBIS project. When talking with airports that have undergone the process, there are five key elements for a successful project:

  • Understanding of the TSA's planning and design requirements as outlined in PGDS v3.0.
  • Using modeling with different equipment and configurations with variable scenarios in the planning phase.
  • Meeting regularly with all stakeholders to provide input into the design.
  • Looking beyond the EDS machine alone, keeping in mind potential changes to the entire design as the CBIS affects entire airport operations.
  • Budgeting planning time and phases for a successful deployment in a multi-year process.

What should be considered when evaluating high speed EDS equipment?

The CBIS is much more than just the EDS. However, when the EDS operates at maximum capacity with less machines, cost savings is increased by decreasing the need for baggage handling system (BHS) components, personnel and maintenance. New EDS technology incorporates TSA requirements but should also go beyond with a design that understands what an airport needs in a successful CBIS. Below are some of the most important features a high speed EDS should have to ensure that the airport will realize their best return on investment.

EDS systems should accommodate the BHS' highest volume at maximum speed. The equipment should have configurable speeds that can operate at either .25 m per second or .5 m per second and accommodate current or future BHS configurations.

An EDS system should have high resolution 3-D imaging for a better automatic detection platform, low false alarm rates and a clearer image with an advanced graphical user interface for operators to resolve alarms efficiently.

EDS systems should have high reliability and rapid maintainability with built-in diagnostic tools and planned maintenance schedule. Maintenance beyond the initial implementation should be available from an experienced original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for the lifetime of the equipment to allow the airport to have an operational advantage now and in the future.

Design, operational considerations and product reliability contribute to overall operational costs. An EDS system should have a reliable, upgradable design using the latest in technology for a future-proof, cost effective CBIS. What benefits would high speed screening bring to airports? High speed screening will offer airports the ability to grow over the next 10 to 20 years without extensive reconfiguration, while keeping operational costs in check. High speed should provide faster throughput, getting the baggage to the aircraft with more efficiency. Due to a reduced BHS infrastructure, less redundancy and a smaller footprint, high speed should result in lower overall long term maintenance costs. High Speed EDS installation should include the ability to upgrade and should not require major infrastructure changes/ costs, reducing capital expenditure.

Finally, a well designed CBIS with high speed offers cost reduction while providing ample room for increased growth and gives the airport a competitive advantage. The best CBIS planning considers all stakeholders concerns and provides the public with the most effective security while keeping costs competitive for the airport. When planning a high speed CBIS all stakeholders must be involved at the beginning to make the most of available equipment and design strategies employed by successful integrations to date. Equipment should meet all stakeholders needs, while going beyond to help provide top security and the best return on investment for now and the future.

To learn more about high speed hold baggage screening systems, contact us.



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