Upgrading the BHS to be EDS3 compliant: The challenges and opportunities for Groupe ADP at the Paris airports

Groupe ADP is currently redesigning and reconfiguring its Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports’ baggage handling systems (BHS) as all European hold baggage screening must be upgraded to Standard 3-approved explosives detection systems (EDS) by March 2023. 



We talked with Emmanuel Lefevre, the Director of Terminal and BHS Projects at Groupe ADP, about both the challenges and opportunities that are presented in upgrading hold baggage screening systems and BHS.

The scope of the project

Groupe ADP is the owner of the Paris airports, Orly and Charles de Gaulle. As such, it is in charge of airport development and implementing the HBS and BHS upgrades.

The upgrade project for the Paris airports, begins Lefevre, has been a massive deployment comprising:

  • Orly airport: almost 20 EDS3 within six BHSs; and
  • CDG airport: 80 EDS3 within 15 BHSs –  the installation of more than 100 EDS in total, being an investment of €500m.

The purpose of the EDS3 upgrade is to detect higher levels of threat and lower false alarm rates, relying in the main on Computed Tomography (CT-scan) using the modern and more powerful x-ray systems than those in the preceding Standard 2.

The requirements for the upgrade, in terms of the legislative framework, benchmarking and ideation started in 2014 and were initially expected to be completed by September 2020 according to the EU regulations, says Lefevre. Due to the impact of the Covid pandemic, however, that deadline could not be met and the upgrade was extended to March 2023. In reality, however, the upgrade is now expected to be delivered in full by 2025.

Implementation of the upgrade

As Lefevre notes, the upgrade of the Paris airports hold baggage screening systems has been challenging. It has had to be conducted during running operations and in conjunction with other passenger terminal revamping projects.

The constraints of EDS3

The new EDS3 screening equipment also has, he adds, some inherent constraints, making the task even more demanding.

EDS3 are bigger, heavier and more expensive than earlier-generation screening equipment. They also take longer to do their job. While an examination using EDS2 technology could be completed in 18 seconds per bag, EDS3 now takes 70 seconds.

In addition, continues Lefevre:

“The EDS3 has involved major redevelopment work and construction of new sorting areas. We had to reinforce the frameworks and structures of the buildings. We also had to adapt the routing and maintenance requirements of the BHS and modify the baggage conveying circuits.”


Proof testing at CDG to determine how the upgrade should look

According to the new EU regulation, uncleared bags have to undergo a more detailed examination and this can be achieved if the screener is provided with more time to analyse the images, possibly generated by another EDS3.

With that in mind, says Lefevre, ADP conducted two evaluations.

The first, in 2013, was of the available EDS3 and involved three different EDS3s. It measured KPIs, throughput, auto-rejection rates, tracking lost rates, screener analysis time and rates of cleared and rejected bags.

The second evaluation, in 2017, involved the use of an additional inspection by EDS3 immediately following an analysis by RTT110/a Standard 2-approved EDS and involved four different EDS3s. It measured the ability to detect detonators in specific configurations, KPIs, false alarm rates, the number of cleared primary control false alarms and the number of other false alarms produced by the additional control.

The evaluations resulted in ADP deciding to implement two types of architecture for its hold baggage screening at the Paris airports. Lefevre explains it this way:

  1. On the revamped BHS: ADP deployed an additional EDS3 to cope with large baggage flows and maintain the level of service. The additional EDS3 is set on “show all bags” mode, providing the screener with targeted alarms.
  2. On the refurbished or brand-new BHS: Instead of deploying an extra EDS3, ADP decided to add an extra screener, thereby providing more time to analyse the same image of the primary level of control.

According to Lefevre, while the second option is easier because it involves fewer machines inside the BHS, it also means possible errors in the EDS analysis and lost-in-tracking bags have to be mitigated.

The opportunities found in upgrading legacy systems

Despite the significant challenges, Lefevre says there are many opportunities to be gained from upgrading security screening systems that no longer meet government regulations. He elaborates:

“Implementing Standard 3 has given us the opportunity to totally refurbish some of our legacy BHS  that had been in operation for decades and reached the end of their life cycles.” 

The brand new facility, Lefevre continues, has meant:

“ … we can now offer Air France and Skyteam Air Alliance, for example, more effective handling of short-connecting (transfer) bags. Having operated previously on three different BHSs, all baggage is now gathered in one facility, being more effective in both performance and cost.”

The EDS3 upgrade has also delivered significant energy savings for the Paris airports. While legacy systems have to be running all the time, only the active parts of these advanced systems need to be running, while the rest of the system can remain dormant.

Lessons learned from the upgrade

Mandatory upgrades are costly and potentially extremely disruptive to airport operations. Lefevre shares these pointers for any airport contemplating a significant upgrade of its hold baggage screening systems and BHS:

  1. Take the time to properly prepare the project’s timeframes: The consultation with legislators, aviation authorities, subcontractors and all involved is extremely time consuming and needs to be factored into the overall timeframe.
  2. Involve suppliers early in the feasibility stage: You will benefit from their experience and R&D.
  3. Future-proof your upgrade: Get involved with R&D as much as possible to ensure you’re working with the best technology that can be modified to cope with future and fluctuating demands. ADP used digital twins to simulate future scenarios and data tools to enhance the design process.
  4. Integrate operations every step of the way: From the feasibility stage to the commissioning stage, operations should be involved at every step. In this way, you can deliver a project that will satisfy everyone.
  5. Ensure you have additional capacity in advance: Moving operations from one home to another is the best way to cope with live-operation works.
  6. Allow for a generous training period: The new technology requires a higher skill set and you need to allow for the proper time to train your screeners.
  7. Choose the most robust system possible:

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