Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is initiating research to develop a solution for safer and faster airport security scanners.

Headed by Dr Okan Yurduseven, the research received the £1m Leverhulme Research Leadership Award and aims to develop a solution that can reduce the security scan time from ten seconds to less than a tenth of a second.

An internal investigation conducted by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) found that, in 95% of trials, undercover investigators could sneak in mock explosives or banned weapons via the tested security checkpoints.

This investigation prompted Yurduseven to develop a better solution for security checkpoints that is also capable of reducing waiting times.

He stated: “This Leverhulme Research Leadership Award will allow us to create technology that is fully electronic, rather than manually operated, and this will allow the scanners to process the images in real time. We think the entire scan process should be complete in less than a tenth of a second.

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“By integrating machine learning into the design process, we will substantially reduce the false alarm rates in detecting threat objects. The outcome of this project will be of vital importance to ensure the safety of the public right across the globe.

“In order to do this we will use state-of-the-art millimetre-wave radar systems. We expect that the end result will be a much more effective system, leading to safer outcomes and reduced waiting times, so hopefully shorter queues at airports and other venues that use these scanners.”

For the five-year research project, Yurduseven is planning to set up a team of four PhD students and four postdoctoral research associates. The students will work with radar technology, image processing algorithms and deep learning schemes.

Last year, Pittsburgh International Airport in the US partnered with Carlow University to redefine its customer service approach.