Frisky Business at Transport Security Expo

frisk transec

For the last five decades passenger screening has played an integral part in aviation security, yet it continues to remain heavily reliant on the tried and tested body frisk.

Despite technological advancements, as yet there is no totally acceptable workaround for the use of human screeners – and therefore human fallibility.

Professor Norman Shanks; Principal Partner of security and business management consultancy NSAI and visiting Professor in Aviation Security at Coventry University; is recognised as one of the world’s foremost specialists in aviation security, and believes passenger screening still awaits the big technological breakthrough. He will be presenting his full view on this at the Aviation Security conference at Transport Security Expo 2014 on 2-3 December (

Professor Shanks says:

“The efficiency or effectiveness of the current passenger screening regime is largely dependent on the individual screeners and their ability to detect threat items using the range of available technologies. While there exists automated detection for threat items in carry-on baggage, this is not widely (if at all) deployed as the concentration is on the screener to identify threats from the traditional x-ray screen image.”

With the use of devices which allow the detection of threat items, the technology relies on the screener for analysis; in essence allowing the machine to do what it does best – detect substances or items which are recognised as a threat, and the human operator to visually analyse the data to determine is there is in fact a prohibited object present or reason for alarm. He continues:

“While this type of approach resolves the carry-on baggage screening process, we need to find a better way of more effectively screening passengers themselves, as it is not practical to screen and analyse every passenger individually through advanced imaging technologies.”

Shanks also argues that what advancements there have been could be seen as symbolic rather than tangible progress. He explains:

“The use of advanced imaging technologies such as X-ray or Millimetre Wave (MMW) technology deployed since the failed attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, (the so-called ‘underpants bomber’) in 2009 to detonate a wearable IED in his underwear was a major advance. However there is a counter argument that this is more of a means to allow aviation security eegulators to demonstrate that they are doing something, more than a genuine major advance over an properly executed body frisk.”

Peter Jones, CEO of TRS organiser Nineteen Events, says, “The global transport security community has produced some of the most impressive technological advances in recent years but there is still plenty of room for innovation. A challenge which I am sure will be met by some of the cutting-edge technologies such as those on showcase at our Expo.”

Transport Security Expo takes place 2-3 December 2014 at Olympia, London. Visit for details on how to attend and exhibit.

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