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Reach for the Sky

by Brian Sims
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI: Editor of Risk UK

Worth a substantial £2 million, a competition specifically orchestrated to help unearth new ways of safeguarding air passengers has just been announced by the Government’s Future Aviation Security Solutions (FASS) team. The joint Home Office and Department for Transport operation has launched this competition through the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) as part of its wider FASS programme, which itself weighs in at a hefty total of £25.5 million until 2021.

Suppliers are being asked to develop truly innovative technologies, with a focus on people security, baggage security and cargo security. The technologies and approaches should help to detect the widest possible range of explosives, weapons and other threats that could be taken on board an aircraft, while at the same time seeking to limit any inconvenience caused to passengers or costly delays around cargo operations.

Lord (Tariq) Ahmad, Minister for Aviation, has stated: “Keeping passengers safe is our absolute priority. The threat to aviation is continuing to evolve and we must remain both vigilant and a step ahead with our response. The recent UN Security Council resolution on aviation security, which was championed by the UK, has called on States to promote new technologies and innovative techniques. Through this competition, we’re investing in research to raise screening standards, as well as helping to create a safer and more secure transport system.”

Interestingly, this is one of the first competitions to benefit from additional support and resources as the CDE transitions towards becoming the Defence and Security Accelerator.

“Air journeys are already one of the safest and most secure ways in which to travel,” observed security minister Ben Wallace, “but as threats evolve, our response must change to match and defeat them. I would like to see entries to this competition which will make our skies even safer for passengers.”

The competition opened to proposals on Thursday 20 October and will run in two parts (with £1 million of support in each phase). At the end of Phase 1, successful project managers will be asked to demonstrate proof of concept of their technology and explain their proposed approach for transitioning the concept towards a mature operational solution.

News of the competition emerged in parallel with the Government’s announcement of its support for a new runway at Heathrow Airport – the first full length runway to be built in the South East since WWII. The scheme is to be taken forward in the form of a draft national policy statement for consultation in 2017.

The Government’s decision on its preferred location underlines its defined commitment to keeping the UK open for business now and into the future. It’s a central part of the bold plan to “build a global Britain” and an economy that works for everyone.

As time moves on, the key drivers for change in airport environments will surely be many and varied. There will be increasing integration of security and operational systems for effective airport management, while the driving of efficiencies, operational improvements and enhanced quality of service through the ongoing use of technology is going to be vital.

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