Mounting safety concerns emphasize the need for advanced solutions in Aviation Security


Technical Insights advances in Aviation Security Technologies Analysis

Palo Alto, Calif June 15, 2004 Confronted with the growing demand to provide citizens with greater security without imposing on their personal liberty, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been investing extensively into R&D for aviation technologies.

Many airports around the world are using biometric measurement technologies to determine the identity of air travelers. Besides being extremely accurate, it is also much faster than other traditional, long drawn out procedures that involve a much greater degree of human intervention.

A few of these programs are already underway at some international airports. Though each of them has been specifically designed to meet varying needs, they share certain common characteristics.

At the most basic level, the passenger would have to enroll in a program where his biometric measurement is stored on a database or engraved on a card. This would serve as an identification card for future reference.

To enter an airport the passenger would need to insert this card into a machine, and answer touch screen questions. The final confirmation occurs when the cardholder directs his eye into an iris scanner that compares the image of his iris with the template engraved on the ID card.

"Biometric identification methods have also been incorporated into passports. Identifying fake or stolen passports has always been a source of concern among security officials," says Michael Valenti, Technical Insights Analyst. "But biometric passports that are durable, highly secure, and can be easily read by machines have alleviated fears of tampering and foul play."

Even while biometric techniques play an integral role in identifying impersonators, another aspect that is increasingly being scrutinized by the authorities is explosive detection.

Intelligent imaging solutions that are capable of integrating standard baggage and screening procedures with explosive detection systems (EDS), have reduced the number of "false positive" alarms. It has also minimized the need for human intervention.

Technologies such as Computed Tomography (CT) take cross sectional X-rays images of the luggage, and send it to an on-board computer. The images are then analyzed and their properties compared to those of known explosives. If a match is found, alarms are immediately activated.

Yet another threat facing commercial airlines today are Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) that are shoulder-fired rockets or missiles that are designed to bring down combat aircraft by the infantry.

To counter the availability of these systems on the international black market, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been working in liaison with private sector participants.

"It is likely that the information from private participants will help modify commercial aircraft while minimizing the disruption and maintenance downtime to air carriers," concludes Valenti.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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