July 10, 2023

Robot sentries beef up security at Hactl air cargo terminal


The largest independent cargo handler at Hong Kong International Airport is taking security measures to the next level with robots that patrol its facilities and sniffer dogs trained to detect lithium batteries in shipments.

Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd. (Hactl) announced last week that the first security robot is ready to begin surveillance, initially patrolling vehicle parking areas and export goods handling zones during the peak nighttime period. The airline service provider said the robots will also be deployed during daylight hours as required. It aims to have two or three in service next year.

In addition to complementing an existing closed-circuit television system for theft prevention, the robots will also monitor the condition of cargo throughout the company’s massive 4.2 million-square-foot super terminal and video record incidents of damage to help with insurance claims.

Hactl would not disclose from which technology company it is purchasing the robots, which feature a thermal imaging camera, a high-resolution camera with a wiper for outdoor use, a lidar sensor for navigation and multiple ultrasonic sensors for collision avoidance. 

“By reducing reliance on human patrols, we are freeing up valuable night shift security staff resources to focus on making our security regime even more proactive, flexible and responsive to any incidents. This is a significant step forward in strengthening our overall security programme,” said Hactl CEO Wilson Kwong in a news release.

This is the third area of Hactl’s business that has seen the introduction of robotics. During the pandemic, Hactl introduced sanitization robots to help reduce the risk of infection among its workforce. More recently it launched an automated parts store to dispense urgent spare parts that are needed around the clock to maintain its large automated handling systems.

In April, Hactl began using specially trained detector dogs from MSA Security to check outbound shipments on Qatar Airways freighter aircraft for undeclared lithium batteries, which can pose a fire safety risk if they overheat. During trial runs at Hactl’s super terminal, an MSA dog successfully detected packages containing lithium batteries in PCs, and even a single power bank, located on pallets containing other general cargo.

Qatar Airways Cargo and Hactl are the first carrier and cargo handler in Hong Kong to utilize trained sniffer dogs for lithium battery detection. Qatar Airways said it opted to use dogs rather than traditional X-ray detection alone because it is difficult to reliably detect lithium batteries by imaging, especially for e-commerce shipments containing multiple types of products in small packages.

Kansai Airport in Japan has tested two security robots that conduct autonomous patrols of passenger terminals. 

A year ago, GXO Logistics deployed air and ground security robots from Asylon Inc. at a major distribution center in Clayton, Indiana, and said at the time it planned to significantly increase deployment of automated security systems across other sites within the next year. GXO has used Asylon’s tech to collect real-time data about on-site activities, investigate and clear alarms, conduct video-verified security audits and more.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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