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SPEECH RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY VALIDATED FOR TOWER CONTROLLERS

An air traffic controller is simultaneously responsible for three remote airports supported by outside views, radar displays, and visualization of speech recognition outputs in an electronic flight strip display © Sesarju.eu

manually insert information with an electronic pen. The aim is to keep the workload and situational awareness of controllers at an optimal level at all times.

The assistant-based speech recognition system uses machine learning algorithms to automatically adapt the acoustic, language, command prediction and command extraction models to new environments. Furthermore, it uses contextual knowledge from radar data, flight plan data, and meteorological data to reduce command recognition error rates.

The three-week validation was carried out from 14 February to 3 March 2022 with ten air traffic controllers from Austria and Lithuania in the TowerLab of DLR’s Institute of Flight Guidance in Braunschweig. Working in a multiple remote tower setup they remotely controlled three simulated airports in two scenarios: one with the developed speech recognition support and a second scenario for comparison without such support. During and after the simulation scenarios, researchers gathered data about the command recognition, workload, situation awareness, and system usability.

The trials are intended to prove that the automatic extraction of ATC commands supports and relieves controllers in their work. After the successful completion of the test campaign, the data collected is now being evaluated by the involved project partners. The first results will also be presented at an online open day a few weeks after the trials.

This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874470.

SESAR is the technological pillar of the EU’s Single European Sky policy and a key enabler of the European Commission’s Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy. SESAR defines, develops and deploys technologies to transform air traffic management in Europe

UK FAILS TO FULFIL CUSTOMS CONTROL OBLIGATIONS

The three Towers of the Court of Justice © curia.europa.eu

The EU Court of Justice is set to enforce a hefty fine against the UK after it found negligence in the imposing of EU obligations to combat fraud and enter the correct amount of customs duties and VAT.

Since January 1, 2005, the European Union has abolished all quotas applicable to imports of textile and clothing products, particularly from China.

But in 2007, 2009 and 2015, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) sent mutual assistance messages to Member States, informing them of the risk of extreme undervaluation of imports of textile and footwear products from China, carried out by “shell companies”, registered for the sole purpose of giving the appearance of legality to a fraudulent operation. OLAF has requested that all Member States monitor their imports of such products, to carry out appropriate customs controls and to take adequate and appropriate safeguard measures in case of suspicion of artificially low invoiced prices.

On 8 March, 2022The European Court of Justice pronounced its judgement in relation to Case C-213/19 (Commission v United Kingdom), concerning the UK’s undervaluing of imports of textiles and footwear from China and associated failure to fulfil obligations regarding customs control and the recovery of EU own resources, through failing to adopt measures necessary to combat fraud.

The Grand Chamber of the Court upheld the Commission’s application in part, essentially ruling that the UK failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law. This is in particular by failing to:

  • apply effective customs control measures or to enter in the accounts the correct amounts of customs duties and accordingly make available to the Commission the correct amount of traditional own resources; and
  • provide the Commission with all the information necessary to calculate the amounts of duty and own resources remaining due.

The Commission has claimed losses of EUR 2.7 billion. However the Court ruled that the calculation for this amount did not meet the requisite legal standard, requesting that the Commission therefore recalculate. The Court identified an inconsistency between the form of order sought in the Commission’s application and the grounds set out in it, as well as the considerable uncertainty, as a result, regarding the accuracy of the amounts of own resources claimed by the Commission.

In the light of the particular circumstances of the case, the Court approves, however, the method used by the Commission to estimate the amount of traditional own resources losses for part of the infringement period, since that method has proved to be sufficiently precise and reliable to ensure that it does not lead to a clear overestimate of the amount of those losses.

The Court also makes clear that it is not for the Court to take the place of the Commission by calculating the precise amounts of traditional own resources payable by the United Kingdom. It is, however, for the Commission to recalculate the losses of EU own resources remaining due by taking account of the findings of the Court regarding the quantum of the losses and the value to be attributed to them.

The UK will not have the right to appeal the final verdict, but it can challenge the commission on how much money should be paid once the bill is revised.

James Lookwood

THE WORLD’S FIRST CARBON-NEGATIVE DIAMONDS ARE MADE FROM AIR

Aether, a luxury jewellery company, uses proprietary technology to transform harmful air pollution into the world’s rarest diamonds.

From start to finish, the process of creating Aether diamonds happens in four steps:

CO2 is captured from the air: Atmospheric collectors pull carbon dioxide air pollution straight out of the sky. As the air is drawn in, the CO2 collects in specialized filters.

CO2 is processed into raw materials: The captured CO2 is then synthesized into a usable hydrocarbon raw material perfect for growing diamonds.

Diamonds grow in reactors: The hydrocarbon raw materials are placed into powerful reactors that create the perfect environment for growing a diamond. The diamonds grow in our lab one ambitious atom at a time, as the carbon perfectly aligns into crystalline form.

The finishing touches: The growing process continues for 3-4 weeks until the exact moment when it’s reached peak perfection. The rough diamonds are then sent to our expert craftspeople to cut, polish, and set them into jewelry by hand.  According to Aether, this creation is the first diamond using carbon from a source that isn’t underground.

« We are addressing the lab-grown market in a new way, since there is some level of emissions and environmental impact from the fossil-fuel production used for lab-growns. It gets down to both mined- and lab-grown diamonds taking sides about which harms the environment less. Aether turns that paradigm on its head. We are benefiting the planet » says co-founder and CEO of Aether Ryan Shearman

EUROPOL SUPPORTS BELGIAN AUTHORITIES IN SHUTTING DOWN AN ILLEGAL CIGARETTE FACTORY

With the support of Europol’s European Financial Economic Crime Centre (EFECC), a massive illegal cigarette factory has been raided and shut down by Belgian Customs (Algemene Administratie van Douane en Accijnzen / Administration Générale des Douanes et Accises). The illegal factory was located in a former pet hotel in Arlon, Belgium.

Fourteen workers mainly from Eastern Europe were arrested, and the Belgian authorities seized the complete cigarette manufacturing machinery. Some four tonnes of tobacco and two million counterfeit cigarettes were also seized at the premises in Arlon. An additional 40 million counterfeit cigarettes presumably manufactured at the illegal factory in Arlon were seized in trailers in an industrial area in Duffel, Belgium. These cigarettes were most likely destined for the black market in France and the United Kingdom. The tax loss in Belgium alone is estimated at EUR 20 million.

The action on 15 March was the result of intensive international cooperation via Europol. French Customs (Douane) were also involved in the investigation and seized over 25 tonnes of counterfeit cigarettes and 16 tonnes of tobacco belonging to the same organised crime group in the city of La Longueville.

The organised crime group under investigation is involved in the large-scale production and distribution of counterfeit cigarettes. A number of investigations are ongoing against them in several European countries.

European coordination

Europol’s EFECC supported the investigation by providing its secure communication platform and facilitating international cooperation between Belgium and France ,running cross-checks and providing analytical support and operational expertise. One of its experts was deployed to Arlon to assist the Belgian authorities with the action day.

Excise fraud is currently an EU law enforcement priority. Strategic and operational plans have been developed under the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Crime Threats (EMPACT) Excise Fraud Project. Under this umbrella, a total of 24 countries led by Belgium are working together on countering the illicit production of cigarettes in the European Union.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: LATVIA URGED TO BETTER PROTECT AND COMPENSATE VICTIMS, CONVICT TRAFFICKERS

The Council of Europe’s expert group on human trafficking has urged Latvia to take further steps to identify, protect and compensate victims of trafficking, and to ensure that traffickers are convicted. These are among the main proposals for action included in the third evaluation of Latvia’s implementation of the Council of Europe’s anti-trafficking convention, published by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA). (https://rm.coe.int/greta-implementation-report-third-evaluation-round-on-latvia/1680a59480)

Latvia used to be primarily a country of origin of victims of trafficking in human beings, but since 2019, there has been an increase in the number of foreign victims identified in Latvia. Trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation has become the main form of exploitation, and the number of identified male victims has increased over the years. The report welcomes the authorities’ efforts to develop the legislative and policy framework, and adopt a new national action plan against trafficking in human beings (2021-2023).

Since 2016, only two victims of trafficking have claimed – and were awarded by criminal courts – compensation from perpetrators. The number of victims who received state compensation was 12 in the period 2016-2020. GRETA urges the authorities to make additional efforts to guarantee effective access to compensation for victims of trafficking. Furthermore, GRETA is concerned by the low number of investigations, prosecutions and convictions for trafficking in human beings, and the fact that a significant number of the sentences handed down were suspended. Adequate human and technical resources should be provided to the Police Anti-Trafficking Unit, says the report.

In addition, GRETA urges the Latvian authorities to make full use of the available measures to protect victims and witnesses, and to prevent intimidation during the investigation, as well as during and after the court proceedings.

EMSA SIGNS COOPERATION AGREEMENTS WITH EU NAVAL MISSIONS TO PROVIDE ENHANCED MARITIME AWARENESS FOR OPERATIONS IN SOMALIA AND LIBYA

European Maritime Safety Agency

EMSA is supporting EU Naval Force operations – Atalanta and Irini – following the signature of two cooperation agreements with EU NAVFOR-Somalia (Operation Atalanta) on the one hand and EUNAVFOR MED (Operation Irini) on the other. Operation Atalanta targets counter piracy and the protection of vulnerable vessels and humanitarian shipments off the coast of Somalia, while operation Irini seeks to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya and in doing so contribute to the country’s peace process. By cooperating with EMSA in the areas of maritime security and surveillance, multiple sources of ship specific information and positional data can be combined to enhance maritime awareness for the EU Naval Force in places of particularly high risk and sensitivity. The support provided by EMSA comes in the context of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.

F.Bogaert ©Marine Nationale
EUNAVFOR-Somalia Atalanta

EMSA has been supporting the EU NAVFOR-Somalia Atalanta operation since April 2011 when piracy off the coast of Somalia was at its peak. The various measures taken to suppress piracy have been successful and the mandate of the operation was not only renewed at the beginning of last year but also expanded to include measures against illegal activities at sea, such as implementing the arms embargo on Somalia, monitoring the trafficking of weapons, and countering narcotic drugs. Through the cooperation agreement, EMSA is providing EU NAVFOR with access to an integrated maritime monitoring solution which offers the possibility of consulting vessel position data, central reference databases and earth observation products. This is integrated with EU NAVFOR data – such as vessel risk level based on vulnerability assessments – creating a specifically tailored maritime awareness picture. The new cooperation agreement extends the longstanding collaboration with EU NAVFOR for an indefinite period and is a great example of how EMSA is serving maritime security and law enforcement communities worldwide.

EUNAVFOR MED Irini

The EUNAVFOR MED operation Irini began on 31 March 2020 with the core task of implementing the UN arms embargo on Libya using aerial, satellite and maritime assets. It replaces operation Sophia but with a new mandate. While EMSA has been providing satellite AIS data to EUNAVFOR MED since 2015, the new cooperation agreement allows for access to EMSA’s Integrated Maritime Services platform and in particular to the Agency’s Automated Behaviour Monitoring (ABM) capabilities. These services help EUNAVFOR officers to keep a close eye on Libya’s ports as well as to monitor the flow of maritime traffic in the area and target specific vessels for inspection based on suspicious behaviour picked up by the ABM tool. While the agreement is open ended, operation Irini’s mandate is expected to run until 31 March 2023.

‘SPIRIT OF INNOVATION’ STAKES CLAIM TO BE THE WORLD’S FASTEST ALL-ELECTRIC VEHICLE

Rolls-Royce believes the all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft is the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, having set three new world records in November 2021when the the aircraft reached a top speed of 555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 kilometres, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph). In further runs at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down experimental aircraft testing site, the aircraft achieved 532.1km/h (330 mph) over 15 kilometres – 292.8km/h (182mph) faster than the previous record – and broke the fastest time to climb to 3000 metres by 60 seconds with a time of 202 seconds. During its record-breaking runs, the aircraft clocked up a maximum speed of 623 km/h (387.4 mph) which we believe makes the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

The ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is part of the ACCEL or ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ project. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.

© Rolls-Royce

The aircraft was propelled on its record breaking runs by a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain and the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace. Rolls-Royce worked in partnership with aviation energy storage specialist Electroflight and automotive powertrain supplier YASA. As well as a stunning technical achievement, the project and world record runs provided important data for Rolls-Royce’s future electric power and propulsion systems for all-electric urban air mobility and hybrid-electric commuter aircraft. The characteristics that ‘air-taxis’ require from batteries, for instance, are very similar to what was developed for the ‘Spirit of Innovation’.

Rolls-Royce has an incredible history of flying speed record attempts and breaking records, dating back to the Schneider Trophies of the early 1930s. The speed achieved by test pilot and Rolls-Royce Director of Flight Operations Phill O’Dell in the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ was more than 213.04 km/h (132 mph) faster than the previous record set by the Siemens eAircraft powered Extra 330 LE Aerobatic aircraft in 2017.  Never in the history of the FAI record attempts has there been such a significant increase in speed over such a short time, highlighting the rapid pace at which electrification of aerospace is advancing.

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