Costain and Swissport Western Europe trial thermal imaging at Birmingham International Airport

posted on 22nd June 2020 by Eddie Saunders
Costain and Swissport Western Europe trial thermal imaging at Birmingham International Airport

Swissport Western Europe and Costain, the smart infrastructure solutions company, are collaborating on a three week trial of thermal camera technology at Birmingham International Airport (BHX) as the aviation industry seeks to enhance air passenger safety and confidence in a world impacted by Covid-19.

The trial uses a thermal camera which is positioned at the boarding gate of a major European airline and can pinpoint the temperature of passengers as they pass through. The technology alerts the member of staff watching the monitor to anyone with an elevated temperature, a key indicator for Covid-19. The thermal cameras can monitor multiple individuals at any one time up to five metres away. This means the temperature checks can be done as people move through an airport at established points so there should be no additional queuing as a result of the trials.

The UK’s £22bn aviation industry has faced huge challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. At BHX, Swissport would normally handle 6,500 flights during April and May but during lockdown this figure has fallen to 133. While not everyone with Covid-19 has a temperature and not everyone with a temperature has Covid-19, thermal imaging acts as a filter to reduce transmission and will be one way to restore passenger confidence. It has been recommended by the International Air Transport Association as part of a layered biosecurity approach for re-starting passenger flights amid the Covid-19 crisis.

Andy Clarke, aviation director at Costain, said: “Working with Swissport, who has excellent experience, training and ethos in terms of caring for passengers, means we can be sure the technology solution works the best it possibly can for passenger safety and the overall travelling experience. There is huge potential for thermal imaging technology to be integrated into airline and airport systems over time. Airlines, airports, ground handlers and the Civil Aviation Authority need to work closely together to ensure the benefits of new technology introduced to protect passengers and reduce transmission are fully realised.”

Jason Holt, CEO Swissport Western Europe, said: “Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way of our industry operates and this is one way that Swissport is adapting to the new environment and developing solutions to keep our employees and passengers safe. I am proud to have partnered with Costain, who has the expertise to integrate the technology and have in-depth knowledge of the airport environment, to help us toward our goal of remaining resilient, adaptable and reliable in the long run.”

Feedback from those travelling through the boarding gate is that they experienced little difference in the way they moved through the gate.

Swissport Western Europe and Costain are also working separately with other aviation industry players to develop solutions related to thermal imaging technology, testing in a range of airport locations and scenarios.