Could these inventions be the future of airport security?

Scanners that could eliminate the need to remove coats or shoes and machines that could mean we leave liquids in our bags were just some of the designs on display at the Future Aviation Security Solutions show.

Image: Courtesy of SEADM

Products and technology that could change the airport security process and have an impact on passenger experience have been showcased at an event in London.

The new concepts are supported by the Government’s Future Aviation Security Solutions (FASS) scheme which is run by the Department for Transport (DfT) in conjunction with the Home Office.

FASS has worked with the Defence and Security Accelerator, part of the Ministry of Defence, to provide funding for those designing tech with the aim of improving the ability to spot threats and improve passengers’ experiences at airports.

Eight exhibitors showed their projects, which have received £1.8million of funding between them and are mostly at the prototype stage.

Projects include tech that could mean passengers no longer have to take off shoes or outer clothing when passing through security scanners, systems that could remove the need to take liquids out of bags, as well as systems for detecting explosives.

Screening hold baggage

Exhibitors included Sociedad Europea de Analisis Diferencial de Movilidad S.L (SEADM), which has created a system for detecting hidden explosives in hold baggage and air cargo by analysing vapour.

Image: Courtesy of SEADM

The vapour analyser works by taking a sample of the air from where the baggage is and taking it to be screened for explosive vapours using SEADM’s Differential Mobility Analysis tech.

The firm believes the new system may be more reliable and faster than current methods.

Rafael Cuesta Barbado, business coordinator at SEADM, says: “Currently air cargo screening is done by X-ray, which is a rather slow procedure submitted to the interpretation of the operator, thereby leading to high false alarm rates and low probability of detection.

“Our system enables the screening of every piece of cargo in one single quick step, delivering a tangible, objective reading of whether there are concealed explosives or not.”

The device, which is in the “pre-commercial stage”, aims to prevent terrorist threats, Barbado adds.


Also on show was a system being developed by researchers at Durham University which aims to screen liquids and large technology such as laptops, without it being removed from luggage, using machine learning algorithms.

The system could mean that people would no longer need to remove liquids from their bags during screening.

It uses artificial intelligence (AI), which would learn what a typical electronic item looks like when it goes through a scanner, and flags up anything that looks unusual, such as materials it does not recognise, according to BBC reports.

Keeping shoes and coat on

Two different shoe scanners were on display at the show. One has been designed by Scanna MSc, which is working on a system that scans shoes for anything unusual while they are still on a person’s feet.

The tech involves passengers “standing on a grid of sensing electrodes, which map the electrical properties of their shoes and automatically detect threats,” according to a DfT spokesperson.

Sequetim is working on a full body scanner that people can walk through without taking off their coats and emptying their pockets.

Video: Cardiff University 

The DfT says the system aims to “distinguish between threats and non-threats without the need for passengers to keep still or remove outer clothing”.

Sequestim, which is a joint venture between QMC Instruments Ltd and Cardiff University, trialled the tech at Cardiff airport in December 2018.

The tech, which aims to both improve security and cut queuing times, was originally designed to study outer space, according to reports by the BBC.

It uses the body as a light source and “learns” what seems to be a threat and what is not.

The Future of Aviation Security Showcase took place on 17 January in London. For more information on the event, head here.

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