Aviation and Airport

  • New way to lower risk of midair collisions for small aircraft

    Researchers have developed new modifications for technology that helps pilots of small aircraft avoid midair collisions. The modified tools significantly improved pilot response times in making decisions to avert crashes. At issue are “cockpit displays of traffic information” (CDTIs). These are GPS displays used by private pilots to track other aircraft in their vicinity. However, pilots often focus on the closest aircraft on the display — a habit that can pose a significant hazard.

  • Converting light to sound for better weapons detection, medical imaging

    A device that essentially listens for light waves could help open up the last frontier of the electromagnetic spectrum — the terahertz range. So-called T-rays, which are light waves too long for human eyes to see, could help airport security guards find chemical and other weapons. They might let doctors image body tissues with less damage to healthy areas. They could also give astronomers new tools to study planets in other solar systems. Those are just a few possible applications.

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  • TSA expands PreCheck screening program to international airlines

    The TSA is expanding its PreCheckscreening program to passengers on international airlines. Air Canada is the first international carrier to join the list of PreCheck carriers, which already includes several U.S. airlines.Some international airlines are reluctant to join the PreCheck carrier list because it entails upgrading their computer systems to print a PreCheck logo and embed PreCheck data in their boarding pass barcodes. With Air Canada joining the list, the TSA believes other foreign carriers with a large U.S. passenger base would benefit if they offered PreCheck status to their customers.

  • Using light to detect trace amounts of explosives

    Researchers may help in the fight against terrorism with the creation of a sensor that can detect tiny quantities of explosives with the use of light and special glass fibers. The researchers describe a novel optical fiber sensor which can detect explosives in concentrations as low as 6.3 ppm (parts per million). It requires an analysis time of only a few minutes.

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  • Would real-time tracking have helped missing flight MH370?

    The introduction of constant tracking of commercial aircraft during the whole journey has been raised by Malaysian authorities in a preliminary report into missing flight MH370. There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known. There is little doubt that as the search for MH370 continues without finding evidence of the actual site of the wreckage, and the associated search costs continue to rise, changes to air safety will be made. Already there is a suggestion to increase the duration of the recording time of the cockpit voice recorders from two to twenty hours. The emphasis on looking for alternate means of tracking transport aircraft, and the interest in establishing systems for routine transmission and remote storage of flight data, will also grow within governments globally.

  • New scanning technique may end on-board liquid restrictions

    A new machine which can identify the chemical composition of liquids sealed within non-metallic containers without opening them is one of three candidates announced Monday to be in the running to win the U.K.’s premier engineering prize, the MacRobert Award. Already being deployed in sixty-five airports across Europe, this innovation can protect travelers by screening for liquid explosives and could spell the end of the ban on liquids in hand luggage.

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  • Human behavior studies offer helpful insights to airport security officers

    A recent Sandia National Laboratories study offers insight into how a federal transportation security officer’s thought process can influence decisions made during airport baggage screening, findings which are helping the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) improve the performance of its security officers. The TSA-funded project focused on the impacts on threat detection when transportation security officers are asked to switch between the pre-check and standard passenger lanes.

  • Growing questions about TSA’s behavioral detection program

    TSA has spent roughly $1 billion training thousands of “behavior detection officers” as part of theScreening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. The purpose of SPOT is to identify facial and body expressions that signals terrorist activity. Psychologists – and the GAO – question the effectiveness of the program.“The common-sense notion that liars betray themselves through body language appears to be little more than a cultural fiction,” says one psychologist.

  • Costs of securing airports far outweigh the benefits: study

    A recently published research paperconcludes that the funds allocated to secure the world’s major airports far outweigh the benefits. The authors write that “many of the assessed security measures would only begin to be cost-effective if the current rate of attack at airports in the U.S., Europe, and the Asia-Pacific increases by a factor of 10-20.”

  • U.S. lags behind other countries in commercial use of drones

    As the United States continues to explore regulations and safety guidelines for commercial UAVs, other countries have already adopted their use. Photographers, real estate agents, filmmakers, and news agencies in the United States want to use drones in their operations, but the FAA insists that rules addressing safety challenges associated with drones need to be in place before drones can share the sky with manned aircrafts.

  • The global passport security loophole: how serious is it?

    More than one billion people are estimated to have travelled internationally in 2013, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organization. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body that regulates air transport worldwide, reported that around 3.1 billion people travelled by airplane in 2013. The numbers are immense. As a result, so too are the security challenges for airlines, immigration, and airport security agencies. The ICAO expects all of its 192 member countries to introduce machine-readable passports by 2015, but there is still no international deadline for the introduction of biometric passports. This means some people could be using old-fashioned passports until 2025. Even then, there is no absolute guarantee biometric passports are any more tamper-proof than a host of other computer-based security measures which apply to credit cards and customer databases.

  • TSA suspends program aiming to screen passenger online info

    The TSA has stopped testing a technology which reviews passengers’ online data as part of background checks for passengers who apply for the voluntary “Pre✓”program. The TSA had wanted to evaluate paper proposals, examine models, and test the proposed systems in real-world situations before issuing a contract, but now the TSA intends to explore other means of improving the background check process.

  • Remote explosives detection may see the end of full-body scanners

    Standing in a full-body scanner at an airport is not fun, and the process adds time and stress to a journey. It also raises privacy concerns. Researchers now report a more precise and direct method for using terahertz (THz) technology to detect explosives from greater distances. The advance could ultimately lead to detectors that survey a wider area of an airport without the need for full-body scanners.

  • DHS warns airlines of renewed shoe-bomb risk

    DHS has alerted airlines flying to the United States to the possibility that terrorists might try to bring explosives n board in their shoes. The airlines were told that there were no specific plots, and that the information was based on information collected in the United States and abroad that bomb makers affiliated with terrorist groups were working on a shoe-bomb design. Hiding explosives in shoes is not new. In December 2001, passengers aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami prevented a U.K. citizen, Richard Reid, from detonating explosives hidden in his sneakers.

  • FAA vetoes Valentine flower-delivery drone

    Detroit-area florist Flower Delivery Express wanted to use drones to deliver flowers to customers on Valentine Day. The FAA rejected the request, dryly noting that “A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot, and operating approval.” The florist is not giving up yet, cryptically saying it is testing “other guarded secret methods” for flower delivery.