Demand for laptops and smartphones has soared in recent years, presenting logistics service providers with the thorny problem of how to safely transport the lithium-ion batteries that power the devices. Modern batteries store so much energy in a small footprint that in rare cases, they can overheat or even catch fire in transit.
A major aircargo carrier believes the answer to that problem lies in fire-resistant containers. Qatar Airways Cargo will replace its entire fleet of more than 10,000 unit load devices (ULDs)—the polygon-shaped aluminum boxes that fit inside cargo holds—with a new design. Over the next five years, the carrier will invest in Paris-based Safran Cabin’s new Fire Resistant Containers (FRCs), with the aim of swapping out 70% of the units in its fleet by the end of 2022.
Qatar Airways says the boxes will complement its existing fire-resistant units, which protect against Class-A fires caused by ordinary combustibles like paper and cardboard, with protection from more dangerous Class-D fires. The new units are engineered to resist a lithium-based fire for six hours.“As a leading cargo airline, we put the safety of our passengers and employees first. Due to the increased transport of devices with lithium-ion batteries in unit load devices (ULDs), we were looking for a solution that prevents incidents in containers used for the handling and storage of baggage, as well as the transportation of cargo goods,” Guillaume Halleux, chief officer cargo at Qatar Airways, said in a release.