Shipments are opened without permission, dangerous substances are illegally imported, and even entire transport containers are stolen: Unfortunately, situations like this happen over and over again in the aviation industry.
The Fraunhofer working group for Supply Chain Services SCS (Fraunhofer SCS) based in Nuremberg estimates that around 270 million euros in damages occur on an annual basis due to the loss or damage of unit load devices (ULDs). “If the goods carriers in the airfreight logistics chain could be monitored worldwide, a fundamental precondition to ensuring the safe transport from the consignor to the consignee would be ensured,” says Tobias Seidler, head of the CairGoLution project within the Fraunhofer SCS working group. The logistics service provider DHL Express as well as the telematics specialist Telic from Oberhaching near Munich were involved in this project, whose goal was to implement a control system that detects ULD integrity breaches and, if necessary, reports them to a control center. “Uniting our proven tracking systems with a networking technology developed by the Fraunhofer Institute has enabled us to ensure safe monitoring and localization of airfreight,” explains Andreas Kirst, Project Manager at Telic.
Successful test operation: An airfreight container equipped with CairGoLution components completed its first flight in January 2017. Now the system is ready for series production.
A monitoring system uses sensors to reliably detect unauthorized access to the contents of ULDs and then sends a real-time alarm message to the person responsible for the shipment as well as the respective authorities.
In January 2017, a first test flight flew roundtrip from the DHL hub in Leipzig, Germany, to Bergamo, Italy, carrying a CairGoLution ULD on board – demonstrating that the technology works reliably. Compared to monitoring containers sent by sea or land transport, the difficulty lies in the details, explains Kirst: “Airfreight doesn’t listen when the captain tells the passengers to turn off their cell phones before take-off. This means that we have to use intelligent technology to ensure that data is not automatically transferred during the flight.” A whole range of IATA regulations also had to be fulfilled; “it’s up to airlines, however, to make the final decision on whether CairGoLution can be brought on board,” Kirst emphasizes. Of course, a test flight is just meant to be the beginning: “If we pay five-digit sums for sensor technology, then the one-off costs for each system should be in the lower triple-digit euro range,” Kirst predicts. A reasonable amount for the long-term security of valuable loads in ULDs.
The CairGoLution transmitter module is also powered by low light sources and has all the necessary aeronautical certifications.
Text by Behrend Oldenburg
Photos: Frank Steinert/DHL Express