Safety First: The Next Generation of Airport Security Technology

16 August 2011 (Last Updated August 16th, 2011 18:30)

The Paris Air Show provided the perfect opportunity to showcase the latest airport equipment. Airport-technology.com attended the convention, hosted at Le Bourget airport in July 2011, to see what could be coming to an airport near you.

Safety First: The Next Generation of Airport Security Technology

As new airports and terminals continue to be constructed to cater for rapidly increasing demand for flights, the technology on offer has also evolved to counter various security threats.

As the EU looks to repeal its ban on liquids being brought onto aircraft and the desire for quick, efficient explosive detection in airports rises, a market for reliable explosive detection systems has developed.

This, coupled with passenger privacy issues raised by the increasing deployment of full-body scanners, has led to a number of airports rethinking the technology they rely upon and looking towards future development.

The Paris Air Show, one of the aerospace industry's leading events, provides the perfect platform for manufacturers to display their efforts in improving airports for both passengers and employees.

Among the technology on offer at the show, Morpho Detection, the security unit of France's Safran group, unveiled its CTX 5800 Explosive Detection System (EDS) and its XDi Liquid Explosives Detection Solution, both designed to aid in commercial airport attempts to increase passenger security.

Industry-high resolution at unprecedented speeds

"Among the technology on offer, Morpho Detection, the security unit of France's Safran group, unveiled its CTX 5800 Explosive Detection System."

The CTX 5800 systems allows airports to meet a wide range of baggage-handling system requirements, utilising high levels of automation and throughput to assist in the effective planning of passenger growth and operational efficiencies.

Through simplifying the baggage handling infrastructure, reduced maintenance requirements and increased throughput speed, the system can also reduce operational costs.

The CTX 5800, currently the industry's smallest medium-speed explosive detection system (EDS), is capable of producing twice the throughput of competing systems and is designed to be used at smaller volume or space-constrained airports, due to its ability to provide threat detection and security efficiency more commonly associated with major airports on a far smaller scale.

"Successful completion of ECAC evaluation of this EDS… allows airports of all sizes and volumes to adopt, with confidence, the detection effectiveness, operational efficiency and customer-pleasing speed of CT-based hold baggage screening," said Morpho Detection CEO Dennis Cooke.

Morpho's Clarity technology, found inside the CTX 5800, allows baggage to be scanned by an EDS with an industry-highest resolution and at unprecedented speeds.

Following testing by the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, the system has been evaluated by the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and is now certified by the US Transport Security Administration.

Controlling liquids as EU ban repealed

Morpho's second unveiling, the XDi Liquid Explosives Detection Solution, is currently under development at the company's XRD Centre of Excellence in Hamburg, Germany, as it is prepared for deployment in 2013; just in time to meet EU requirements to reliable detect liquid explosives in carry-on bags.

"Morpho's second unveiling, the XDi Liquid Explosives Detection Solution, is being developed at the company's XRD Centre of Excellence."

Passengers have been victim to restrictions on the amount of liquid allowed in hand luggage following a terrorist plot to blow-up transatlantic aircraft using liquid explosives was foiled in 2006.

In April 2010, the European Union announced plans to lift the contentious bans, phasing in changes of policy before completely lifting the ban in 2013.

Morpho's XDi solution uses X-Ray Diffraction technology, the only proven technology capable of detecting liquid explosive components whilst delivering the low false alarm rates needed to reliably detect liquid explosives within airport terminals.

"XRD is already widely and successfully employed for other aviation security applications.

"Though other technology claims to accomplish liquid explosive screening, only XRD can reliably detect such threats in containers and in passenger's bags," said Morpho CEO Dennis Cooke.

Detecting molecular composition

The XRD technology works by identifying potentially hazardous materials based on their molecular composition, rather than their densities or other, less distinctive characteristics.

The process allows the XDi system to identify not only liquids, but also powders and solids which could potentially be used as components in an explosive device that other, existing technologies cannot detect.

The XDi system uses the technology to pinpoint the exact location of the explosive in the carry-on bag by identifying substances based on their composition, whilst also being able to distinguish between explosives and non-threatening materials without the need to remove the bag's contents.

Morpho alleges that, much like the CTX 5800 scanner, the XDi solution can pose other significant benefits to airports that choose to adopt the system by rapidly reducing false positives which, in turn, reduces errors and time spent by passengers as they pass through security.

Conscientious scanning

"Morpho's XDi solution uses X-Ray Diffraction technology, the only proven technology capable of detecting liquid explosive components."

A perhaps more contentious issue relating to airport security has been the use of full-body scanners, with several passenger groups claiming they infringe on privacy by generating a full-body image of passengers.

Detroit Metro Airport in Detroit, US, is one of eight airports in the nation to receive new imaging technology and software in order to retain the security capabilities of full-body scanners whilst also hoping to settle the debate relating to passenger privacy. Positive results would see the system rolled out to all 214 advanced scanner units currently used in the US. The automated target recognition (ATR) software itself filters the image generated by the scanner in order provide a generic outline of a person's body, rather than a naked image, whilst screening passengers for both metallic and non-metallic threats, including explosives, without physical contact.

Whilst preserving the dignity of passengers, the system can also speed up the currently fragmented use of full-body scanners.

Due to the images produced, analysis needs to be conducted away from the scanner and is usually undertaken in a private room, with results communicated via radio.

The ATR software allows the results to be generated at the scanner and the operator to see them immediately, speeding up the process by doing away with the previously necessary communication.