Safer, quicker airport security

There is nothing more frustrating for a frequent flyer than getting stuck behind someone unfamiliar with airport security check points. As a first-time flyer slowly removes a laptop and accidently puts it with his or her luggage, a groan from skilled flyers is almost audible.

Security is, however, essential for the safety of the 40-million South Africans – and a growing number of international visitors – who travel through the country’s nine major airports each year.

What if security can be improved, while also speeding up the airport security check points? Security technology company Smiths Detection showcased its new cabin-baggage scanners – which could dramatically improve security while making the process faster and easier for passengers – at the 2019 Securex Expo.

“Airport security check points today have long queues with people unpacking many things, including large electronics. There are restrictions regarding liquids and other items that slow down the screening process. This is because some of the technology is unable to detect certain material or objects,” explains Hans-Joachim Schöpe, senior programme manager for Smiths Detection.


“Now, with new technology like the check point CT system, these items can be detected more reliably. As a result, the regulations at some airports have been changed to allow passengers to leave laptops, large electronics or liquids in their bags.”

This removes the burden of unpacking for the passenger, as well as the number of trays needed. Usually, there is an individual tray for each item. Schöpe notes: “If everything can be left in the bag, there will be an average of about one or two trays per passenger, which also reduces the image evaluation time for the operators. In the end, the screening process is faster and passengers can move more quickly through the check point.”

The system can be further automated with the system separating the bags that set off an alarm. These can then be checked without delaying other passengers moving through the security point. In ideal conditions, the number of passengers moving through airport security can be increased from about 200 or 250 to around 500 passengers an hour.

The scanner provides a 3D, multi-layered image of the bag to allow the operator to view it from every angle and even detect small or thin items like sheet explosives. The system also identifies certain objects, like weapons or laptops, ensuring even better image analysis. Smiths Detection has launched its CT scanners in a number of airports to be used in trial runs.

The future of airport security promises to be safer and quicker, which will surely put all travellers at ease.

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