Drones: A South African security perspective

Drones, UAV’s, UAS, RPAS – whatever terminology that you may use, unmanned aerial vehicles are becoming more and more popular, not just for use by hobbyists who like to fly them on weekends, but for commercial purposes.

Using Drones for Commercial Use

 

Commercial use of drones ranges from aerial photography and filming, to being used in anti-poaching operations, aerial surveys, crop spraying, wildlife and other forms of monitoring, parcel delivery, delivering of medical supplies to remote areas, evaluation of fire scenes and incidents and surveillance.

Major retailers such as Amazon, are experimenting with drone technology for the fulfilment of orders in their larger warehouses, as well as looking at the viability of utilising drones to do deliveries. Large industrial plants are investigating the use of drones for spare parts logistics. Drones have been used to deliver blood and other essential medical supplies in hard-to-reach rural areas in countries like Rwanda.

Various organisations are testing using Drones to do deliveries.

Various organisations are testing the use of Drones to do deliveries.

Delivery options such as these, if they become a viable option for urban areas can increase the speed of deliveries, as well as saving resources and streamlining processes.

There are infinite applications, which are limited only by the technology that is currently available.

Negative uses of Drone Technology

 

Drone technology has many benefits when used in a positive manner. But like most technologies, there is a dark side to it as well. The most common “negative” use of drone technology that is prevalent, is the use of weaponised drones in warfare, as well as drones that have been used for espionage.

Criminals are also embracing drone technology. There have been reports of drones being used to smuggle items into prisons for the prisoners. In the UK, criminals have attached thermal imaging cameras onto drones in order to pick up the heat signatures of their rival’s marijuana farms, in order that they can steal from them. There are also what are known as “Narcotics drones”. These are drones that are used by drug dealers to smuggle drugs over the U.S./Mexican borders.

Closer to home, there is the potential for criminals to utilise drones to identify potential targets for robberies, both of commercial and private properties.

The word “Drone” has a negative connotation due to the use of weaponised drones that have been used in warfare by various countries, so the preferred name is the term RPAS – Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems. This definition encompasses the wide range of RPA systems that are available, from miniature units that can fit into the palm of your hand to larger fixed wing units with wingspans of more than 1m.

Risks involving RPAS

 

But with every technology, there is some element of risk that is involved. The military potential for destruction and the criminal element have already been highlighted, but the risks involving RPAS to the civilian user is just as high.

Injury to the Public

 

RPA’s can be very dangerous if not operated safely. Multi-rotor RPAS units have very sharp carbon fibre blades that can cause injury if they come into contact with a person. There has been a case in England where a toddler has lost an eye due to being injured by the blade of a RPA that was being flown in the backyard of the house.

Most RPA’s are powered by a rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery. As the recent Samsung Galaxy Note 7 incidents have illustrated, Lithium batteries can be very dangerous, if they are not manufactured or handled correctly. The Lithium Polymer batteries that are generally used in RPA’s are large and very powerful. If these batteries are not managed properly, they can be damaged and the damage to the battery can cause it to explode or ignite.

Besides the safety issues surrounding the RPA itself, other risks from the negligent operation of an RPA are the following:

Collision with other aircraft, with possible fatal results

 

There are frequent reports from around the world of pilots reporting RPA’s flying near their aircraft when coming into land. Besides the blatant disregard of the laws stating that RPA units should not fly within 10 km of an aerodrome, this is very dangerous. If the RPA had to strike the aircraft at a critical point while landing, and get caught up in an engine or wing flap, there could be disastrous consequences for the aircraft.

Other risks include damaging people’s property and legal liability for breaking laws such as privacy by-laws and other laws enforceable by other authorities.

Minimising the Risk

 

So, how can this be prevented? Firstly, by implementing specific legislation with regards to RPAS, and secondly by educating the public as to the risks and the rules regarding the use of RPAS.

South Africa is one of the first countries in the world that has introduced legislation with regards to the operation of Remote Piloted Aviation Systems (RPAS). With the rapid growth in the RPAS industry and the increased use of RPAS for commercial applications, legislation is necessary to ensure the safety and security of everyone who shares civil aviation airspace.

Part 101: Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems – the regulations that govern the operation of RPAS in South Africa became applicable in July 2015. These regulations cover the use of RPAS for commercial operations, corporate operations, non-profit operations and private operations.

Private Operations

 

With regards to operating RPAS in South Africa, if a person operates a RPAS unit for their own use, it may only be used for an individual’s personal and private purposes where there is no commercial outcome, interest or gain. The pilot must observe all statutory requirements relating to liability, privacy and any other laws enforceable by any other authorities. It is also a requirement that those that sell RPAS, display notices and inform buyers of the basic regulations as it applies to private and other uses of the systems that they sale

The flying of drones as a hobby has increased dramatically over the last number of years.

The flying of drones as a hobby has increased dramatically over the last number of years.

Commercial operations; corporate operations or non-profit operations

 

Drones or RPAS are often used for commercial filming e.g. movies, commercials.

Drones or RPAS are often used for commercial filming e.g. movies, commercials.

If an entity or a person is operating a RPAS for commercial operations; corporate operations or non-profit operations, the RPA must be registered and may only be operated in terms of Part 101 of the South African Civil Aviation Regulations.

 Aviation Security Awareness Training for RPAS 

 

Often the reason that individuals make mistakes or inadvertently break the rules, is that they are not aware of what the risks are or the potential threats. Therefore, one of the mandatory requirements is that all personnel employed in the deployment, handling, and storage of RPAS need to undergo Aviation Security Awareness Training, as detailed in Part 109 of the Civil Aviation Regulations.

Professional Aviation Services has been involved in the Aviation industry in one form or another for the last 35 years. We specialise in offering risk services in terms of compliance; aviation security consulting; training and aircraft sales.

We are passionate about educating and equipping people, and we are an approved Aviation Security Training Organisation. We offer the only SACAA approved Aviation Security Awareness training course designed specifically for RPAS operations. If you would like to find out more or book a training session, please contact us. Training is available at all our facilities. To find out more, please visit our training site, www.professionaltraining.co.za.

In Conclusion

In terms of mitigating risk and increasing security, education is key. The correct application of the regulations, the ongoing education of the public and the safe operation of RPAS, will go a long way in keeping the skies and people safe. This will create an environment where the use of RPAS technology to solve problems can become a reality.

Source information with regards to Part 101: South African Civil Aviation Authority.

The challenge of background checks

One of the more controversial aspects of our task as aviation/cargo security professionals is the question of background checks, commonly (and incorrectly) interpreted as being a criminal record check.

So what is a background check?

A background check as defined in the Civil Aviation Regulations of 2011 means:

“background check” means the checking of a person’s identity and previous experience, including any criminal history as part of the assessment of an individual’s suitability to implement a security control and/or for unescorted access to a security restricted area;

You will note from the above definition that the criminal record check is a very small part of the background check but we have elevated it in importance to being just about the only thing that we check when carrying out the background check required by Regulation.

And even when we do find a person with a criminal record the decision on the person’s suitability for employment in a security sensitive position is not straight forward or clear cut, there is no reason whatsoever that a person with a criminal record could not be a very valuable team member who would present no threat to aviation security.

Not so other aspects covered by a proper background check; things like:

  • employment record,
  • possible radical affiliations, pending investigations,
  • criminal affiliations,
  • serious financial difficulties,

all these aspects that could present a much bigger threat and which become clear on a thorough background check.

We make extensive use of pre-employment forensic interviews and polygraph tests combined with very thorough vetting of employment records before we employ people in security sensitive positions, perhaps not perfect but a process that has proven effective.


This is an international problem, this article is from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Alleged terrorist associates sacked from TNT air freight depot

The five men who were allegedly intending to head to Indonesia in a small boat. From left Musa Cerantonio, Paul Dacre, Shayden Thorne, Antonio Granata and Kadir Kaya.

The five men who were allegedly intending to head to Indonesia in a small boat. From left Musa Cerantonio, Paul Dacre, Shayden Thorne, Antonio Granata and Kadir Kaya.

What happened at TNT in Melbourne?

The personnel were subjected to a standard criminal record check which did not cause any alarm because the people concerned had never been convicted of a crime!

How could this have been prevented? 

A forensic interview and polygraph pre-employment would have helped.

We need to go beyond the standard “crim check” into the realm of proper, professional background checks especially for persons in security sensitive positions like screeners and persons applying security controls in respect of cargo and persons including all access control personnel.

Remember that the one of the most difficult to detect and combat threats to aviation security (and the general security of your company and its operations) is the “insider threat”, it is critical that you implement proper background check procedures to protect yourself and your company.

Upcoming changes

Changes to Part 110 of the Civil Aviation regulations currently awaiting signature by the Minister of Transport call for much more stringent recruiting policies and processes including much more intensive background checks for screeners.

This is a very positive development that we should all support.

How can we help?

Please feel free to call us should you require advice on the background check process.

Lithium Batteries: are they safe?

A discussion on the safety of transporting lithium batteries


by: David Alexander, General Manager, ICAO AVSEC PM

The transport by air of lithium batteries has been in the news lately, from air carriers banning the transport of “hover boards” to the latest news that the FAA is lobbying ICAO for a total ban on the transport of lithium batteries on passenger aircraft.

But why the fuss?

Lithium Battery Fire Damage

UPS Plane destroyed by lithium ion battery fire

Imagine that you are on an aircraft at 36 000 ft and a lithium battery fire breaks out in the hold, a fire that cannot be extinguished by any current aircraft fire suppression system, a fire that provides its own oxygen, a fire that burns at 2 000 c and will continue to burn until it consumes all combustible material including the aircraft and…..you.

Far-fetched? No. unlikely? Possibly but we are not in the business of taking chances with people’s lives.

 

All that being said lithium batteries are perfectly safe to carry provided that they have been UN certified as safe for transport, have been manufactured by a reputable supplier, have been packed according to IATA standards and have not been mishandled. Batteries contained in equipment (cell phones for example) or packed with equipment (your new laptop) are perfectly safe.

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A lot has been happening on the safety front, this from The Loadstar.co.uk:

The US National Transportation Safety Board issued two recommendations this week to the Department of Transport. It recommended that lithium batteries be physically separated from other flammable hazardous materials stowed on aircraft, and also to set maximum loading density requirements, which would limit the quantities of lithium batteries and flammable hazardous materials on board.

 

Continue reading

Forwarders should encourage exporters to become Known Consignors

Elliot Molemiby: Elliot Molemi, Aviation Security Consultant, Professional Aviation Services

 


 

Since the introduction of Part 108 into the Civil Aviation Regulations of South Africa there has been a total of 120 Known Consignors accredited by the Civil Aviation Authority, this number has gone up and down over the years and at the time of writing this post there were only 27 left. This number is dwarfed by that of approved Regulated Agents which stands at 136.

More disturbingly is that this means the country’s air cargo secure supply chain has lost 93 Known Consignors in the past 5 years or so. This slump can be attributed to numerous reasons; intangible commercial benefit, and insufficient knowledge by consignors, no targeted workshops by the authority to disseminate information and chief among all the subtle discouragement from Regulated Agents.

Known Consigor Definition_Known Consignor


The role the industry can play

From the CAA, Airlines and Ground Handlers, there is no member of the secure supply chain better positioned to encourage the participation of consignors in the secure supply chain than the Freight Forwarder. The forwarders have daily dealings with consignors. Consignors believe that Part 108 is an onerous process and the Designated Officials of Regulated Agents can help in allaying this myth. Continue reading

The space between vigilance and paranoia

The security of air cargo has lagged behind stringent baggage and passenger security, a massive flaw in the armour of airline security.

80 % of air cargo worldwide lands up on passenger aircraft.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has devised, in consultation with air carriers, forwarding and security organisations and governments, a system of checks, balances, procedures and requirements summarised together in Annexure 17 to the Chicago convention on International Civil Aviation (safeguarding International Civil Aviation against acts of unlawful interference) which is the mechanism devised to enhance air cargo security.

In South Africa the Regulations required to comply with ICAO Annexure 17 have been incorporated into the Civil Aviation Regulations of 1997 under Part 108 of the Regulations by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

The essence of the Regulations is that cargo from a known, and validated, source (consignors) passing through known and validated agents, and certified as such, may be accepted by air carriers as Known Cargo which then requires no further security, apart from random checks. If cargo does not qualify as Known Cargo delays, and the formidable risk of rejection of liability claims in the event of an incident, will be the consequence.

The SACAA Technical Standards, together with the Regulations, forms the foundation upon which the security procedures, measures and training may be formulated and introduced.

The technologies that have been implemented covering the carrying of weapons and other dangerous articles in passenger’s carry on baggage is meaningful and a forceful deterrent against the introduction of explosive and dangerous articles. However, this technology is questionable when applied to air cargo which consists of thousands of different shapes, sizes and differing materials often combining these materials.

It is indisputable that there is no single, technical or other practical, security control applied to air cargo that is infallible and that will not be able to be bypassed by a determined terrorist. ICAO have therefore devised this integrated system that involves all the segments of the supply conduit line from the consignor, or sender, through the hands of the forwarding or courier agent, the air carrier or handling agent, ramp handling agent and those responsible for loading the aircraft. In this way every entity becomes an active participant in air cargo security not only creating a secure conduit but also creating an audit trail which, in itself, is a tactic of deterrence.

Personnel employed at, and along, all stages of the conduit, must all undergo Air Cargo Security Familiarisation Training (and in certain specific cases formal training) as well as background checks including criminal checks. The premises of each of the control entities in the chain must be audited and made secure. Procedures set out in Air Cargo Security manuals, approved by the Civil Aviation Authority, dictate operational procedures.

Cargo having passed through the process becomes Known Cargo.

If Unknown Cargo is presented to a forwarding, courier agent or air carrier it must be made known by applying one, or more, of the security controls that are recommended in the Part 108 Technical Standards.

It is vital, and indeed a moral obligation that all parties involved in the movement of cargo must apply on-going vigilance and co-operation from consignor to aircraft.

Aviation safety is an absolute. It is not the quest for zero defect. It IS zero defect (with acknowledgement to Professor Johann Coetzee). This must be the standard that is applied at all times. Compromise or complacency must not be tolerated. The lives of innocent people could well depend on the quality of participation of all those that are involved in the movement of air cargo.

The Lockerbie disaster required an explosive device the size of a man’s fist to tragically affect the lives of hundreds of people. Binary explosives are the combination of two inert chemicals which, when combined even in small quantities, cause a powerful explosion using a low temperature detonator, these are unlikely to be detected by technical means.

It is almost a foregone conclusion that unless there is on-going and active stimulation of Part 108 measures, this potential complacency will set in. This will be balanced by the forwarding, or courier, agents having to appoint specifically trained Designated Officials who are responsible to the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that the measures are implemented and are on-going. These Designated Officials are also responsible to ensure that the senders of cargo (consignors) implement and continue to apply the Part 108 security measures. The Civil Aviation Inspectorate, formed for this specific purpose, will also play a major role in the on-going vigilance required.

Liability insurance underwriters will certainly take a dim view of non compliance with these measures, which create a real possibility of claims being repudiated, and we should all be aware that claims involving passenger aircraft may well run to hundreds of millions of USD.

The silver lining is that these measures will increase general logistics security and help to deter fraud.

Article by Rob Garbett, Managing Director of Professional Aviation Services.