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07 1 2016

Can airport security be increased?

NATO is developing cutting-edge concepts, technologies and capabilities to protect troops and civilian staff on mission against terrorist attacks. The NCI Agency's scientific, technical, operational, and procurement expertise enables the Alliance to match military safety requirements to technologies developed by industry.

The initiatives presented in this article were conducted through various NATO programmes such as the NATO Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW) and NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP).

Enhancing security scanning at airports

A trial was conducted by the NCI Agency and industry to test new solutions aimed at combining sensor information in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of detecting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the context of Air Transportation Security. The trial highlights NATO's efforts to provide Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) equipment for the protection of military and civilians.

In an airport configuration supported by the NATO E3A Component at the Geilenkirchen airbase, various scenarios were tested that emphasised information enhancement by combining inputs from multiple sensors. A total of four sensors consisting of an explosive detector, a metal detector, an X-ray scanner (that combines both dual-energy transmission with Z Backscatter ® technology), and a passive millimetre-wave walk-by security scanner were tested within an integrated system.

In addition, localized biometric information was used to manage the flow of passengers through the screening systems.

The architecture analysed during the trial concentrated the information from all sensors into one decision point where a combined threat level was estimated for the passengers being screened.

This solution eliminates manual processes currently applied in normal airport conditions and has the potential to increase the passenger throughput while maintaining or improving the security level.

During the trial, a final assessment was made by an operator based on the system recommendation, and in the case of a suspected threat a manual search was employed.

Combining information from multiple sensors enables the coverage of a broader spectrum of threats compared to a single sensor assessment, and also has the potential to reduce the number of false alarms during such a procedure.

Furthermore, the configuration promises faster processing of passengers and luggage, a more reliable assessment of the threats and elimination of health and privacy issues due to passive scanning technologies that provide automatic object detection.

Vehicle screening for the detection of explosives

In other advancing C-IED work, a mobile explosive screening capability was delivered by the NCI Agency to the NATO Response Force (NRF) through a NSIP capability package.

Vehicle screening systems, as well as personnel and luggage screening systems are delivered to NATO by Rapiscan Systems. The vehicle screening system, an Eagle® M60 portal, allows for vehicle inspection using a mobile platform in both drive-by and drive-through scanning modes.

The drive-by mode allows for driverless scanning, which for example can be used to assess a suspicious unoccupied vehicle.

The drive-through portal scanning mode can be used for inspections at seaports, border crossings, and initial location entries, including airport entrances. The portal unit permits the inspection of cars or trucks entering a protected zone by using X-ray imaging.

A material separation technique based on physical properties of the materials (Z number) is employed to find materials such as explosives and narcotics without manual inspection.

Moving forward

Security surrounding air transportation has been a global concern for decades and has recently resurged in the headlines. These types of projects intend to examine how current operations can be improved upon and deliver suitable capabilities that will enhance the security level of NATO troops.

However, while considering the implementation of new technologies, their cost, impact on wait times, operating procedures that must be put into place, as well as concerns such as the displacement of potential attack areas need to be taken into account.

Technology alone cannot solve the issue of airport security and a combination of measures including personnel, detection dogs and technology is the best way forward.

The security threats that we are exposed to constantly evolve.

It is a collective duty of the society to get involved, analyse these threats and identify innovative solutions to maintain safety standards.

NATO will continue to engage in discovering, experimenting and delivering new solutions to protect troops and civilians as decided through political guidance.

The four industry partners that provided the sensors were Morpho (Safran group, FRA), Alfa Imaging (ESP), American Science and Engineering, Inc. - AS&E (USA) and Costruzioni Elettroniche Industriali Automatismi S.p.A. - CEIA (ITA).


This article originally appeared in the Innovation Special Edition of the NCI Agency Communicator Magazine. Download the magazine here or read a digital copy here.

Can airport security be increased?