A walk-through scanner that can identify security threats without passengers having to stand still, or remove outer clothing is being piloted at Cardiff Airport in the UK.
The technology has the potential to cut queues at airports and improve the effectiveness of security, according to Ken Wood, sales and marketing director of Sequestim, a joint venture between Cardiff University and QMC Instruments.
“Globally, around 12 million passengers travel by air every day on 120 000 flights. Passenger numbers are expected to double in 20 years, putting airport security facilities under immense pressure,” said Ken.
He added that the new system could alleviate this challenge: “Our system only needs a few seconds to do its work. Passengers walking normally through security would no longer need to take off coats and jackets, or remove personal items such as phones.”
According to Ken, the scanner quickly ‘learns’ the difference between items that can and cannot be taken on to an aircraft, reducing the risk of false alarms, which inconvenience passengers and slow down screening.
“Any concealed items show up very clearly as a shadow because the human body, by dint of its heat, acts like a light bulb for our scanner. The new scanner images do not present any ethical issues because anatomical details do not show up. No-one will need to see the images when the technology is eventually used for real, however, because the system will be completely automatic.”
He added that the detector technology was originally developed to study the most distant astronomical phenomena and so has been dubbed ‘space technology’. “For example, we have used it to study how stars are born from gigantic clouds of gas and dust.”