WFS and Diagnose train dogs to detect lithium batteries

Worldwide Flight Services (WFS) and dog-handling detection company Diagnose have pioneered the detection of undeclared shipments of lithium batteries following a 6-month trial in France.

The companies started work in March to carry out a feasibility study using dogs to detect the presence of lithium batteries in cargo shipments, mail and baggage.

Testing was carried out at WFS’s cargo terminal in Lyon involving 2 dog detection teams and their trainers.

Based on the free-running explosives detection method, the trial enabled the dogs to check large volumes of different types of cargo with impressive results.

David Clark, Global Head of Health, Safety, Security and Environment at WFS, says that the dogs detected the batteries very precisely with 100% accuracy.

He says, “They located both lithium ion and lithium metal phone batteries in various cargo units whose volume sometimes exceeded 2 to 3 cubic metres. More specifically, they were able to detect a single button battery (ion metal battery) within a 1 cubic metre shipment.

“In response to one of the biggest aviation safety challenges, WFS and Diagnose believe this can help to significantly strengthen safety measures.”

The test period allowed for the development of an operational protocol, a standard training programme, and an end-of-training and ongoing performance evaluation.

WFS and Diagnose will make France the centre of excellence for the detection of lithium batteries by dogs, and dogs could be deployed across EU airports or in response to customer requirements within 5-6 months as more teams are trained.

There are few means to physically check for undeclared lithium batteries, posing a major fire risk, and IATA is calling on governments to develop and implement research methods to detect lithium batteries.

Willie Walsh, Director General of IATA says that the aviation industry is raising the bar by applying existing standards and sharing critical information on rogue shippers but there are areas where leadership from governments is critical.

He says, “Stronger enforcement of existing regulations and the criminalisation of abuses will send a strong message to rogue shippers. The accelerated development of standards for screening, information exchange, and fire containment will give the industry even more effective tools to work with.”