The safety of local and international airports remains a priority for governments all over the world. Through air transport, governments ferry international dignitaries and delegates to various destinations around the world. Besides, the financial world relies on air transport to haul the most fragile and delicate cargo. For these reasons and many others, there is a need to ensure maximum security at major international airports worldwide. Airports have become breeding grounds for international criminals who use the facilities to smuggle ivory, rhinoceros hones, elephant tusks, and drugs. The airports also serve as hideouts for international fugitives who may end up compromising the safety of innocent travelers (Huttumen, 2020). Security officials can aid some of these criminal activities, and therefore becoming a challenge for respective governments to secure their significant airports. This research paper focuses on the reliance of aviation security on technology and the resultant effects on security staff’s skills.
Aviation safety may mean the various efforts that the governments take to ensure that airlines are free from any forms of threat that may lead to injuries or losses. This initiative enhances the security of the officials and clients at the airports (Aviation Safety and Aviation Security, n.d.). Therefore, it is imperative to investigate various incidences where there have been significant security threats in the aviation industry and their effects on socio-economic aspects. A good example is the famous event of September 11, 2001, in the United States. The terrorist events claimed the lives of hundreds of people (Al-Dhoun et al., 2017). Towards that end, this research illustrates how the use of technology in securing aviation facilities has impacted security officials’ skills and expertise at airports and onboard the airlines.
Many historical tragic incidents have continued to happen in the major international aviation facilities. Given the rising number of insecurity cases at the major international airports, the aviation industry has emphasized the need to take airport security and safety seriously. The security and safety measures being implemented may lead to delays in flight times as passengers have to wait longer to go through the various checkpoints. Nevertheless, the benefits of these security measures are significant. The introduction of technological advances has made it easier to go through the security protocols at the major international airports. Earlier studies conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reveals that the number of passengers using aviation facilities is expected to double in the next decade. Notably, this means that the safety measures to be adopted by the aviation industry should not only be safer but also more comfortable for passengers to use.
The following are how the aviation industry has adopted technology in securing the Airlines, the passengers on board, and the entire aviation facilities. There have been improvements in the use of powerful body scanners, countering drones, blockchains, the introduction of e-passports, artificial intelligence, facial recognition software, re-investing in physical measures, hold baggage screening, and the terahertz screening. The technological advancements are discussed as follows:
The Use of Powerful Body Scanners
The aviation industry has introduced the use of powerful body scanners to recognize potential hidden threats. The scanners work so that the passengers do not need to stay still or even remove their clothing. One of the facilities currently employing this technology is Cardiff Airport in the United Kingdom (James, 2019). The technology is efficient in enhancing the airport’s security and speeding up using aviation facilities.
The aviation industry witnesses incidents where drones fly around airports and cause both disruption and potential risks to the affected airports’ security. For instance, there was an incident in 2018, where a single drone flying at Gatwick International Airport, caused chaos (“Gatwick airport: drones ground flights,” 2018). The aviation authorities have various mechanisms to deal with the issue. For example, they can facilitate the enforcement of stricter regulations over the entire drone industry or use internal GPS to prevent drones from accessing the airports’ restricted sections.
Facial Recognition Software
The introduction of facial recognition software has enhanced the security of passengers at leading international airports. This technology uses the e-passport to scan the respective passengers’ faces to explore whether it matches the specimen in the passenger’s passport (Patel, 2018). The use of facial recognition software is fast gaining momentum in the US, where LAX is piloting setting up a base for the technology to be adopted throughout the country.
This technology works by sensing heat emitted by the human body and then using it to visualize objects hidden by specific individuals. Li et al. (2018) note that the technology was invented by a British businessman known as Thruvision. Nevertheless, there are fears that the technology may be a potential health risk, given the technology does not employ artificial illumination that would have made it safer for humans.
Re-inventing in Physical Measures
Airport security must ensure that passengers feel safe by providing physical security to passengers. The security personnel should erect large physical barriers that display strength and provide maximum protection for passengers. Physical security is essential because it protects passengers, as well as offers psychological reassurance. For these reasons, airport security should invest in providing physical security to improve the transportation of both passengers and luggage.
Introduction of E-passports
The various aviation authorities worldwide have launched biometric passports to boost the passengers’ security. Abidin (2017) observes that the first country to use biometric passports was Malaysia, which launched them in 1998. It contains a chip that is scanned by automatic passports at the airports to reduce the manual work that would have been performed by the airport staff. Moreover, the passports also minimize the possibility of human error, thereby providing maximum security.
Hold Baggage Screening
The current technology uses x-ray to screen suitcases at airports. However, the disadvantage of this technology is that x-rays may lead to false alarms as x-rays are down to interpretation. On that note, more research is being done by a Spanish company to introduce a system that would detect hidden explosives in suitcases and air cargo by analyzing vapor. Notably, this method would be much more secure in improving the safety of passengers.
Towards that end, whereas technology has played a significant role in enhancing aviation facilities’ security, it has had its fair share of challenges on security officials’ skills at the airports. These challenges can be understood by categorizing the tasks of the security officials into the following subheadings. Tasks that require expert thinking and overreliance on technology limit security officers’ capacity to undertake duties that require them to think critically.
The provision of security at the major international airports requires complex communication and collaboration between departments. In most cases, the individuals who perform these tasks rely on technology to facilitate the processes, for instance, the manager at the control tower relaying information to all the departments (Mardis et al., 2018). Any technical breakdown in the communication security apparatus can result in significant security lapses. On the same note, routine cognitive tasks may need to be undertaken by the security officials in management positions. In this sense, overreliance on technology to perform these tasks reduces the capability or competence of security chiefs.
Notably, for this report, research was conducted in three stages. The first stage involved convening an expert panel to determine significant technological advancements to manage the airports, the airline staff, and passengers’ security. Second, the researcher used a nationally representative survey to explore the security strategies and activities. The third stage revolved around determining the use of technology acquisition, application, and limitations. This research was used to identify the impact of technology on security officials’ skills and expertise in the aviation industry.
The researcher organized virtual and physical meetings with the participants to confirm that they would participate in the research. On the same note, the respondents, who were mainly security officers drawn from different aviation authorities locally and internationally, we’re taken through the research’s nature and scope to ensure that they felt comfortable. Moreover, controversial issues were timely and adequately explained to all the participants in the study.
Data Collection Strategies
The survey participants were contacted and prompted by nonresponse follow-up through multiple mailings and telephone conversations. After the mailed response, the researcher conducted two waves of reminder phone calls to approximately 200 none responding security officers (Nguyen, 2019). The Aviation authorities were e-mailed upon request by the researcher. During the entire research process, the study allowed for telephone calls to conduct the survey. The scholar established some questions before the actual research was conducted. The following were the questions asked:
- What is the impact of technology on the security of passengers in the last decade?
- In your opinion, what is the likely prospect of air transport in the foreseeable future?
- How does technology hamper social skills in the security sector?
Sampling Methodologies Used
Written questionnaires were established and administered to a nationally representative sample of aviation security officers. At the same time, they were conducting this research, the scholar aimed at obtaining a minimum of 450 surveys. With an assumed completion rate of 70%, this would require a sample of 315 security officers (Regmi et al., 2016). The researcher also included all tribal and state agencies to realize adequate representation from each security officer in the survey responses.
Results and Analysis
The responses given by the participants were recorded, analyzed, and presented in graphical presentations, as indicated in the figures below.
- There is a steady increase in air transport by passengers from all parts of the world, between 1980-2030.
- Africa has the most significant potential for air transport. Technological advancement in America and Europe ensures the number of passengers is already high.
- Technology improves the security of aviation facilities, and therefore there is steady growth in the industry.
- The use of technology in aviation security has reduced fatal accident cases between 2006-2015.
The results indicate a close relationship between the use of technology in aviation security and industry growth. Technology improves the safety of the airports, the passengers, and the staff, thereby increasing clients’ confidence to use the means of transport. For instance, the introduction of technology has dramatically reduced the number of fatal accidents between 2006-2015. Cases of crimes onboard that lead to such kinds of accidents have also decreased.
This research was subjected to the following ethical observations:
- The respondents were assured of the confidentiality of their responses. Besides, they were reassured that their contributions would be used only for academic purposes.
- The researcher ensured that there was an equal representation of the aviation security officers in the chosen sample.
- The participants were allowed to make their own decisions as to whether to participate in the study or not.
Limitations of the Research
- Some participants were unwilling to participate in the research. The researcher should consider giving the opportunity only to cooperative respondents in the future.
- The chosen sample was relatively smaller. Therefore, it would be appropriate to use a larger model to come up with more dependable results.
Given the benefits of technology in enhancing aviation facilities’ security, the relevant authorities should continue investing in aviation technology to realize even better results. The security improvements have seen a surge in the number of passengers opting for air transport. The crew on board should be better equipped and better trained to ensure their safety. Passengers should be thoroughly screened to ascertain that criminals do not get an opportunity to get on board and carry out their criminal activities. On that note, there should be maximum surveillance on the use of aviation facilities to ensure there is no tampering, leading to technical or mechanical breakdowns. Moreover, the aviation industry should assign manual tasks to the personnel to avoid overreliance on technology that may hinder the growth and development of security officers.
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Al-Dhoun, R. M., & Al-Lozi, M. (2017) ‘The impact of the September 11 and Amman hotel explosion incidents: the case on the incoming tourism in Jordan’, Journal of Social Sciences (COES&RJ-JSS), 6(4), pp.869-885.
Gatwick airport: drones ground flights (2018) BBC News.
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James, M. (2019) 9 ways airport security is improving. Boss Magazine.
Li, R. et al. (2018) ‘Study of automatic detection of concealed targets in passive terahertz images for intelligent security screening’, IEEE Transactions on Terahertz Science and Technology, 9(2), pp.165-176.
Mardis, M. A. et al. (2018) ‘Assessing alignment between information technology, educational opportunities, professional requirements, and industry demands’, Education and Information Technologies, 23(4), pp.1547-1584.
Nguyen, M. (2019) ‘Data Collection Methods in L2 Pragmatics Research’, in Taguchi, N. (1st ed.) The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition and pragmatics. New York: Routledge, pp.195-212.
Patel, V. (2018) Airport passenger processing technology: a biometric airport journey. Dissertation. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Web.
Regmi, P. R. et al. (2016) ‘Guide to the design and application of online questionnaire surveys’, Nepal Journal of Epidemiology, 6(4), pp.640.