The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expanded its current air
cargo screening pilot program, which has been ongoing at San Francisco
International Airport (SFO) since this past summer, to a new venue, Seattle-
Tacoma (Sea-Tac) International Airport where screeners will focus on using
technology to detect stowaways on freight-carrying aircraft.
The Sea-Tac portion of the $30 million Air Cargo Explosives Detection
Pilot Program (ACEDPP) will also involve explosives detection screening, albeit
with screeners solely relying on canines. But for the stowaway screening, DHS
will employ several handheld devices, some of which will be able to detect the
"sound or motion" of a human heart, and others that can detect elevated carbon
dioxide levels, a DHS spokesman tells TR2.
DHS would not disclose the specific technologies being used in the
projected nine-month Sea-Tac trial nor the companies that are providing the
screening devices. The DHS spokesman says the devices have all been successfully
laboratory tested and that none of them have been used in an aviation
At SFO as part of ACEDPP, Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
screeners have been using screening technology currently in use for detecting
explosives in checked baggage, to look for explosives on air cargo primarily
carried in the bellies of passenger planes (TR2, June 28). The SFO pilot is
expected to wrap up within the next few months.
Unlike the SFO pilot, the Sea-Tac program is being done at an all cargo
facility where the freight will be loaded on air cargo freighters. Stowaways are
a higher concern on jet freighters because the cargo is also loaded on the
flight deck, where a terrorist or someone else could threaten the flight crew.
Shortly DHS is expected to announce one more U.S. airport that will be
used to test air cargo screening technologies under the ACEDPP.
While part of ACEDPP is to inform DHS, TSA and Congress about screening
technologies and methods that may work and may not, another facet of the program
is to obtain data "that illustrates economic and operational impacts to air
carriers from enhanced screening levels," DHS says. At Sea-Tac, "Tests will
focus on areas that include assessing the flow of air cargo and how quickly it
must be screened," DHS adds.
At SFO and the yet-to-be-named airport under ACEDPP, the DHS Science and
Technology Directorate and its partners in the program will be investigating if
screener can increase by six times the amount of cargo currently being screened.
At SFO the DHS has been doing this be adjusting the number of screeners, the
department spokesman says. At the other airport a dedicated, but set number of
screeners will work to find out how much cargo they can handle, he says.
The ACEDPP is congressionally mandated. Separately, DHS S&T is also
involved in research and development of technologies designed to detect
explosives in air cargo containers. S&T is evaluating eight different screening
technologies at the Transportation Security Laboratory in New Jersey.
"Promising technologies will be down-selected in the next 24 to 36
months," says the spokesman says. "Further proposed testing decisions in an
operational environment will then take place by the TSA."
The technologies being evaluated for containerized screening are:
megavolt computed tomography; pulsed fast neutron spectroscopy; neutron
radiography; pressure activated trace sampling; trace explosive detection cargo
screening; quadrupole resonance/trace cargo screener; and coated micro-
cantiliver trace explosives detection trace cargo detection.
DHS is also funding the development of systems, such as X-Ray, that can
screen entire pallets of cargo at once for explosives.
Sea-Tac will join San Francisco International Airport and an unnamed Midwestern airport in the $30 million program.
SFO and 11 other airports to test technology and process of passenger explosives screening.
Officials hope the six-month program will help them figure out how to inspect more cargo on passenger jets for explosives without slowing time-sensitive shipments.