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New airport scanner which will take just five seconds

June 8, 2011


Passengers could clear airport security in as little as five seconds under plans for a sophisticated new screening system which would not require them to remove their personal belongings.

The 21 feet long smart tunnel combines all existing and imminent security technology in one place and would slash the time passengers wait at airports. Passengers would simply walk the length of the tunnel while they are scanned.

It would prevent the frustration many passengers feel when they have to partially undress at a security gate.

A version is expected to be trialled within 18 months and could be rolled out at major airports within five years. British authorities are known to be keen to use the next generation of airport security scanners as soon as possible.

Currently the aviation industry allows 30 seconds for passengers to pass through the existing security system.

But this time only allows for walking through the detector, removing shoes and belts, placing metal objects in a separate container and producing liquids for inspection.

It does not take into account the time passengers spend putting gathering their belongings afterwards, nor the time they have to queue before reaching the metal detector in the first place.

This can take around 10 minutes at the most efficient airports which now includes Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

It is hoped that the waiting time would also be cut as a result of the quicker screening process.

A prototype of the new technology was unveiled in Singapore yesterday by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents the world’s major airlines.

It features screening methods which are either already commonplace at airports – such as body scanners – and those which are expected to be introduced soon, including liquid detectors.

The IATA system would divide passengers into three categories, who would initially be identified by an iris-recognition system before entering the arches.

So-called “known travellers” who have been pre-screened would only face an x-ray, metal and liquid detector.

“Normal travellers” would also have their shoes scanned automatically and pass through an explosive trace detector.

Anyone whose behaviour raised concern – such as a passenger buying a one way ticket in cash – would go through a different channel which would also feature a full body scanner.

The Association hopes trials of a cut-down version of the arch, with at least some of the screening operations, could start at a couple of major airports by the end of next year.

Existing airport security has relied on a combination of metal detectors and pat down searches for decades.

It was found wanting in Christmas 2009 when the so-called underpants bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab, managed to board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with explosives hidden in his underwear.

Although the bomb failed to detonate, it led to the rapid introduction of full body scanners at major airports.

Passengers can now be asked to go through a body scanner as well as passing through the existing metal detector.

They also face limits to the amount of liquid they can carry on board and are frequently told to remove their shoes and belts.

There is also growing impatience within the industry at the antiquated security regime, which sees passengers facing multiple checks.

Last year, Martin Broughton, the British Airways chairman, described many of the measures as redundant and Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, is also lobbying his EU counterparts to support an overhaul.

Mr Hammond wants EU to allow airports to replace metal detectors with body scanners as part of a more flexible approach to security.

The smart arches displayed in Singapore are even more sophisticated and a Whitehall insider voiced interest in the research.

“We want airports to be free to use new innovative ideas like this if it will help improve security. That’s why we will be passing a new law which will focus on security outcomes and not be so prescriptive about every procedure used by airport security.”

  1. June 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    This is the “total Recall” body scanner advertised in 1990 by Arnold Schwarzennegger, just a few years late. The back-scatter x-ray hidden behind the wall gives you a dose about 1/50 to 1/20 of a chest x-ray. The transmission “total Recall” system is perhaps 2-6 chest x-rays. This gives anew meaning to the word “transparency”.

    Checking grandmother, young children and expecting mothers with dangerous x-rays for no medical reason is a public health risk. Women with curves get scanned more often while creating a breast cancer health risk for women with the BRCA gene. The iris scan open other privacy issues as well.




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