A trial at London Gatwick Airport has shown security procedures could be faster and less intrusive for passengers.

A prototype millimetre-wave (MMW) detector developed by UK research company Qinetiq is able to scan people or baggage and "see" weapons or explosives, eliminating the need for hand-held scanners or pat-down searches of passengers.

Qinetiq's "MMW imager" is contained in a "portal", a short corridor through which passengers walk through. MMW energy, naturally occurring in the atmosphere, is reflected 100% by metal, and in different percentages according to the type of material. The human body reflects around 30% of the radar energy, but it penetrates clothes, so a security officer can see the body shape and the outline of any objects being carried against the body or in clothing.

Qinetiq says the portal could be positioned as part of a gate or corridor so that people would not be aware that they were being scanned.

In the Gatwick trial earlier this year, 400 passengers who activated the standard metal detector arch were asked if they would volunteer to go through the scanner. The results have just been released.

Qinetiq says more than 95% were happy to participate, and "almost all" of them preferred the scanner to the "pat-down" or hand-held scanner.

Now the company is continuing psycho-physical tests at its Farnborough site to establish the effectiveness of security officers in detecting a variety of "threats". Qinetiq says there is more research and analysis to do, and is as yet unable to give a completion date.

Source: Flight International