Improving airline security

STFC’s Futures Programme, working closely with industry, delivers new scanning technology that enhances airport security, reduces costs and improves passenger confidence

With stories of potential terror attacks constantly in the news, our personal security becomes a daily thought when travelling overseas. STFC’s Security Futures Programme is identifying and co-ordinating STFC technologies and skills with defence and security applications. This not only helps make the world a safer place, but also exploits existing research and maximises the UK’s investment in science.

Rapiscan Systems, one of the world’s leading providers of security monitoring equipment for airports and other ports of entry, has been working with STFC’s Security Futures Laboratory at its Daresbury Laboratory site to develop the next generation of security scanning technology. The previous breed of airport scanning machines gave security staff a flat, one-dimensional view of the contents of a bag. Although hospital-style scanners, similar to those used to scan unborn babies, have been adapted on a small-scale for baggage scanning, the systems were too slow to be widely used in airports. By using multiple X-ray sources, the new technology provides more comprehensive and probing 3D images of suitcases and baggage at rates three times faster than existing systems, thereby providing the highest levels of security whilst lowering costs and reducing the impact on passengers.

STFC provided the expertise, computational and test facilities that the company needed to build its first prototype scanning system and then to develop its first airport installed baggage scanning system. This system was trialled at UK airports, including Manchester and is now being offered more widely. STFC’s collaboration with Rapiscan is likely to be the first of many to help keep the British public safe. The company based in Redhill Surrey has a research division based in Manchester and recently received the Queens Award for International Trade.

“This system gives us the opportunity to invest in technology that enables us to meet security regulations, while making the passenger experience simpler.”
Mike Fazackerley, Customer Service Director, Manchester Airport

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000