Manchester Airport Trials Controversial Image Scanning Technology

12 October 2009 (Last Updated October 12th, 2009 18:30)

Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport in the UK has begun a year-long trial of an X-ray scanning technology that allows security staff to effectively see images of passengers 'naked'. It is hoped that the system will increase efficiency at security points by producing 3D black and white ima

Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport in the UK has begun a year-long trial of an X-ray scanning technology that allows security staff to effectively see images of passengers 'naked'.

It is hoped that the system will increase efficiency at security points by producing 3D black and white images of a passenger's body, exposing any concealed weapons or explosives on screen.

More controversially, the scanner also exposes a passenger's genitals and breasts. The airport has been quick to stress that all images cannot be stored and will be destroyed immediately. Passengers can refuse to be scanned and instead opt for traditional 'pat-down' techniques.

Passengers who do pass through the scanner, which uses electromagnetic waves to generate an outline of an individual's body but without any distinguishing features such as hair, are no longer required to remove coats, shoes and belts as they go through security checks.

The scanners were made by global aviation screening solution specialists Rapiscan Systems and cost approximately £80,000 each. They were also trialled at Heathrow Airport in 2004.

The move mirrors developments in the US where over the course of the last year the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been trialling various image scanning technologies at a number of airports across the country. In June, a campaign was launched by privacy groups to ban the use of full-body scanners that resulted in the passing of a bill to limit their use.

TSA has, however, recently placed a $25m order with Rapiscan Systems for a number of its Secure 1000 Single Pose advanced checkpoint security screening solution units. The order is the first part of Rapiscan's $173m indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract with the US Transportation Security Administration for Advanced Imaging Technology.