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Air cargo essential to fight against COVID-19

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Air cargo essential to fight against COVID-19. Image: Wikimedia/ Jonnyknoxville1
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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and its members continue to support governments in their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Since the crisis began, air cargo has been a vital partner in delivering much-needed medicines, medical equipment (including spare parts/repair components), and in keeping global supply chains functioning for the most time-sensitive materials. This has been done through dedicated cargo freighter operations, utilization of cargo capacity in passenger aircraft and with relief flights to affected areas.

Air cargo is also instrumental in transporting food and other products purchased online in support of quarantine and social distancing policies implemented by states.

The dramatic travel restrictions and collapse of passenger demand have severely limited cargo capacity. IATA calls on governments to take urgent measures to ensure that air cargo will be available to support the global fight against COVID-19.

“Over 185,000 passenger flights have been cancelled since the end of January in response to government travel restrictions. With this, vital cargo capacity has disappeared when it is most urgently needed in the fight against COVID-19. The world’s fleet of freighter aircraft has been mobilized to make up this capacity shortfall. Governments must take urgent measures to ensure that vital supply lines remain open, efficient and effective,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Governments must see air cargo as an essential part of the fight against COVID-19 and take the following actions:

  • Exclude air cargo operations from any COVID-19-related travel restrictions, to ensure life-saving medical products can be transported without disruptions
  • Ensure that standardized measures are in place so that air cargo can continue to move around the world with minimal disruptions
  • Exempt air cargo crew members, who do not interact with the public, from 14-day quarantine requirements
  • Support temporary traffic rights for cargo operations where restrictions may apply
  • Remove economic impediments, such as overfly charges, parking fees, and slot restrictions to support air cargo operations during these unprecedented times

“Air cargo carriers are working closely with governments and health organizations around the world to safeguard public health while also keeping the global economy moving. Today, as we fight a global health war against COVID-19, governments must take urgent action to facilitate air cargo. Keeping cargo flowing will save lives,” said de Juniac.

Air Freight

Etihad Cargo deploys cargo-only boeing 787s to complement freighter fleet and ensure continuity of UAE and global key trade lanes

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Etihad Cargo deploys cargo-only boeing 787s to complement freighter fleet and ensure continuity of UAE and global key trade lanes. Image: Eithad Cargo
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Carrier will tweak its freighter network to adjust to passenger suspension Launches passenger freighter network in line with the current environment to ensure continuity

Following the directive issued by the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) of the United Arab Emirates to temporarily suspend all passenger services to and from the UAE, Etihad Cargo continues to play a vital role in connecting key cargo markets and ensuring the UAE’s import and export needs are adequately covered in line with current demand.

To complement its fleet of Boeing 777 Freighters, Etihad Cargo is introducing a fleet of Boeing 787-10 aircraft as passenger freighters to operate 34 weekly flights, serving 10 markets initially. Each aircraft will provide capacity for 12 Lower deck pallets and four containers, carrying up to 45 tons of payload.

The passenger freighter network will introduce capacity, subject to permits, into India, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and other places where borders remain open for cargo. On top of that, the current freighter schedule will be enhanced by additional flights into Riyadh, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

By utilising the Boeing 787 in addition to its freighter fleet, Etihad Cargo will ensure the continuity of vital imports into the UAE including fruits, vegetables, meat, medical supplies, mail and ecommerce.

Abdulla Mohamed Shadid, Managing Director Cargo and Logistics at Etihad Aviation Group, said: “As the national carrier to the UAE, Etihad is working closely with the UAE government to ensure the country is well served and the needs of the people residing in the UAE are unaffected, while continuing to play our role as a facilitator of global trade between the East and the West.”

“In the current environment and as per our leadership’s guidance, it is essential these trade lanes remain open, and with the addition on this capacity we are able to serve those constrained markets that face decreased passenger freight operations, offering a strategic cargo lifeline and supporting the continuity of the global trade ecosystem.”

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Air Freight

First passenger aircraft full of air cargo lands in Frankfurt

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First passenger aircraft full of air cargo lands in Frankfurt. Image: Luftansa Cargo
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LH729 from Shanghai flies mainly medical goods to Germany

Loaded with around 30 tons of freight, a Lufthansa passenger aircraft landed in Frankfurt after a flight time of 11 hours and 6 minutes. In addition to the cargo compartments of the Airbus A330, the cabin including the stowage compartments above the seats was also loaded. On board the aircraft with the registration number D-AIKI were various highly urgent goods, mainly from the medical sector, including masks and other protective equipment. The required permits for the flight were issued in excellent cooperation with the foreign ministries and embassies of the People’s Republic of China and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Lufthansa Cargo is making every effort to strengthen security of supply by air. About half of the goods are normally transported in freighters, the other half in the bellies of passenger aircraft. Due to the far-reaching cancellations of passenger connections, valuable airfreight capacity is lacking. The Lufthansa Group and Lufthansa Cargo are therefore looking into the possibility of operating further flights exclusively for cargo transport on passenger aircraft.

Especially in emergency and crisis situations, logistics and airfreight are of particular importance. In addition to urgent spare and machine parts, mainly sensitive pharmaceuticals and fresh goods are transported intercontinental by air. A Boeing 777F freighter has a standard load capacity of 103 tons.

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Air Freight

VMS to integrate AI and drone technology for enhanced airborne object detection

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VMS to integrate AI and drone technology for enhanced airborne object detection. Image: Pixabay
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Glasgow-based Visual Management Systems (VMS), a leading provider of bespoke Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) solutions, is working on a collaborative project with the University of Leicester. The project, funded by the national SPRINT business support programme, will help VMS to integrate Artificial Intelligence and drone technology to develop a new PSIM solution for enhanced airborne object detection.

The University of Leicester will support VMS with a pioneering approach to machine learning algorithms. The project will enable VMS to build AI into a drone that can send alerts to flag up potential issues and provide high quality airborne images for operators to check. This can benefit organisations using security systems and applications including fence security, and search and rescue at sea. Future developments may include a satellite deployed solution that will integrate intelligence from ground-based systems, drones and orbital platforms.

The project is funded by a grant from the £4.8 million SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

Jay Shields, Managing Director of Visual Management Systems said: “We initially had a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Leicester and have jointly worked on the development of a facial recognition platform. Through the SPRINT programme, we gain access to the superior R&D facilities at the University of Leicester, offering a degree of resource that we couldn’t naturally afford as a small company.

“The University is very good at thinking and creating, and through this collaborative partnership, VMS can bring a thorough understanding of the marketplace, product and delivery. The learning from the University will be invaluable. The support from SPRINT is significant as it brings credibility and risk reduction, and for small businesses such as VMS, can enable us to see a Return on Investment far quicker.”

Ivan Tyukin, Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Leicester added: “The challenge set to us by VMS was how to fit an object detection system within a portable, mobile platform such as a drone. The system needs to cope with uncertainties and varying operational conditions resulting in a broad variability of scales and image intensities, and we also needed to avoid the system sending false alarms that the operator then has to check, using cameras or sending patrol cars to search.”

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