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‘SAFEE’ targets on-aircraft security

The SAFEE project, aimed at improving security onboard commercial aircraft, held its kick-off meeting in Paris on 5 February 2004. Thirty-one partners from 12 countries, including heavy-hitters from the aerospace industry and security specialists from the research and academic communities, came together for the first time to plan the way forward.

‘SAFEE' targets on-aircraft security

Air security has become a key concern in the wake of the attacks of 11 September 2001. Subsequent investigations have shown the tragedies might have been prevented had better security procedures and systems been in place.

SAFEE (‘Security of aircraft in the future European environment’) will investigate and develop technologies aimed at improving security for commercial air travellers, focusing on on-aircraft systems.

Layers of defence

“Protecting an aircraft against hijacking means building up several layers of defence,” explained SAGEM’s Jean-Thierry Audren. “It’s like building a castle. The first level of defence involves security procedures on the ground – not letting a dangerous individual get on the plane in the first place. If that level fails, on-board systems come into play. These are the systems we are concerned with.”

Types of attack to be addressed by SAFEE, explained Audren, include:

  • Classic hijacking situations;
  • September 11-type scenarios where an aircraft is commandeered and used as a weapon; and
  • Futuristic scenarios involving electronic jamming and hacking of computer systems.

Five SAFEE subprojects will address specifically:

  1. Onboard threat detection – This could involve the application of advanced audio and video surveillance techniques.
  2. Threat assessment and response management – Perceived threat indicators must be consolidated and appropriate courses of action determined.
  3. Flight protection – This implies the taking of appropriate action, either by human elements or automated systems.
  4. Data – On-board systems will generate an enormous amount of data in carrying out the envisaged tasks. As such, new processing tools are likely to be required.
  5. Cross-cutting areas – The SAFEE project intends to elaborate a complete and comprehensive system for on-board security. This subproject will take a broad view, encompassing all of the other subprojects.

High-flying partners

SAFEE boasts an array of excellent collaborators, including 10 SMEs, under the coordination of SAGEM, one of the world’s leading suppliers of security systems. Partners include Airbus, BAE Systems, Thales and EADS from the aerospace industry. Representing the research community are France’s ONERA and Germany’s BAM, among others. Researchers from the University of Reading and the Technical University f Munich will carry out advanced studies in behaviour and voice recognition. The group also includes Gs-3 from Israel, experts in counter-terrorism and aircraft security, and ENERTEC from the broadcasting industry.

Daniel Gaultier
Daniel Gaultier

As one of the first projects to be launched under the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for RTD (FP6), SAFEE will be following new procedures aimed at simplifying project management and increasing flexibility.

Addressing the participants, SAGEM’s Daniel Gaultier said, “Under FP6 we are now much more in control of what we are doing. As partners, we are free to determine for ourselves how to run the project.” SAFEE is to be completed by the end of 2007.

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