Li Zhang, Chief Scientist of Aviation Security & Artificial Intelligence, Nuctech, interviewed by Ross Falconer.
There is an old saying that security is an events-driven industry. Nuctech thinks of it in a different way. “Old techniques cannot secure the new world,” says Li Zhang, Chief Scientist of Aviation Security & Artificial Intelligence, Nuctech. “Security should not be driven any more, security should be leading. In the future, we will definitely import more of the latest techniques into security inspection. We will develop faster than the terrorists, and be able to detect any threats effectively before they threaten society.”
Beijing-based Nuctech was founded 20 years ago as an offshoot of prestigious research institution Tsinghua University. Its international expansion means it now has customers in over 150 countries, with its products installed in 150 airports. Indeed, Nuctech has an increasing focus on aviation security, particularly expanding its market penetration outside China. A big breakthrough occurred this year, with the company’s latest computed tomography (CT) inspection system for checked baggage achieving the ECAC EDS Standard 3.1.
“Nuctech now has a comprehensive solution for airport security, including systems for passengers, baggage and cargo, and installed at the entrance, check-in counter, checkpoints, and across the whole terminal,” Zhang explains. “We are not only focusing on the techniques and requirements we meet today, but also getting prepared for tomorrow.”
The Nuctech portfolio includes the Keyline next generation airport security solution, Kylin CT inspection system, explosives trace detection, and various cutting-edge products for the aviation market such as the Raman inspection system, a millimetre-wave body scanner, and a dual-view X-ray inspection system.
The launch of Keyline is a response to the significant reform that aviation security is experiencing, with growing passenger throughput, changing policies, evolving threats, new technologies, and in-depth participation of manufacturers. With the ACI/IATA Smart Security vision in mind, this solution integrates the passenger experience with operating efficiency, while aiming to enhance security and help airports reduce operating costs.
Based on a modular and scalable design, Keyline is designed to be deployed with equal efficiency in major international hubs and smaller regional airports to provide a comprehensive and easy checkpoint process for passengers.
Meanwhile, with regards to ground safety and the insider threat, Nuctech puts forward a risk-based and technology-driven security solution for airports.
Multidimensional CT inspection
Nuctech Kylin is a newly-developed CT inspection system, which innovatively combines the company’s dual-energy material discrimination technology with the spiral CT technology. With multidimensional information acquired by the system, it realises automated explosives, liquid explosives, and narcotics detection with what is said to be a higher probability of detection and a lower false alarm rate. Kylin can scan up to 720 bags per hour, and a single Kylin scan generates a high resolution 3D image, digital radiography or 2D image, and slice images of the scanned baggage. The system is approved by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and has already been deployed at several airports in China and Europe.
“Kylin provides a 3D image with precise material information and automatic detection,” Zhang comments. “It is new and, to some extent, even revolutionary. Kylin improves the image quality and recognition accuracy a lot. Operators are able to identify many more threats, much easier than ever.”
With the advanced explosives detection algorithms developed in Kylin, Nuctech’s Keyline concept allows passengers to go through the security checkpoint without removing laptops or liquids & gels in their baggage.
Collaboration with airport partners
In recent months, Nuctech has secured three new contracts at airports in Europe and Asia, with the equipment scheduled to be online in early 2018. “We collaborate very closely with our airport partners,” says Zhang. “We are happy to get different ideas from the end-users, and believe it is essential that manufacturers and end-users communicate effectively. We always treat the operators as our colleagues or co-founders.”
Nuctech participated in this year’s Dubai Airport Show, where it held a workshop entitled ‘Checkpoint Smart Solution’ with customers from the region, including Dubai Airports, Abu Dhabi International Airport, Kuwait Civil Aviation Administration, Turkey’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Administration, and the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia.
“The smart checkpoint is a very popular concept in modern airport security. It may improve the experience of passengers and the efficiency of inspection,” Zhang explains. “This solution will be applied in many major airports in the next three years. Airports in the Middle East are interested in the latest techniques and are willing to become the earliest users of the new products.”
In its 20th anniversary year, Nuctech continues to refine its portfolio of products and solutions for airport security. Looking ahead, the company’s priorities for 2018 and beyond are “making excellent products with the most advanced techniques, providing sincere service to lead the industry forward, and cooperating with our partners to make the world a safer place,” Zhang concludes.