Tech to make flying safer

2014-10-14 00:00

A MAJOR airports conference in Durban yesterday demonstrated dramatic security innovations, from brain-scan technologies to explosive-sniffing archways.

And one company claims the process of turfing out your bottled water at security checkpoints may be a thing of the past next year.

Speaking at the Airports Council International Africa conference in Umhlanga, Angela Gittens — former head of the world-famous Atlanta International Airport — said long lines and intrusive methods at security checkpoints remained the biggest gripe for African passengers.

It was one of a checklist of issues and solutions discussed by hundreds of airport industry delegates at the three-day event, hosted by the Airports Company South Africa.

Partly in response, a number of international security companies showed off their latest technologies on the exhibition floor — including one that is being used by west African governments to help control the Ebola epidemic.

U.S. company Securiport offered a Big Brother-style arsenal of data mining and profiling tools, which it sells to immigrations authorities to flag terrorists and others on global “watch lists”.

Its system saw the capture of a migrant-smuggling ring in Senegal earlier this year, and also reportedly stopped alleged terrorists in West Africa.

Company agent Gaston Tarquini told The Witness it was also hoping that South African authorities might buy its new fingerprint technology, which defeats masking techniques by smugglers to tell “your actual fingerprint”.

Meanwhile, Morpho Detection showed off the 3-D “CAT-scan” system, currently in use in the bowels of King Shaka International Airport. Sales manager Carlos Richter said that, once flagged as suspicious by two-way X-ray devices, the spinning 3D imaging device could not only pick up tiny amounts of explosives in luggage, but identify them as well, without opening the bag.

The company’s security gadgets are also designed to pick up drugs, chemicals, and even “radiological and nuclear” materials in baggage.

Richter declined to provide detail on what King Shaka’s system had found, but said, the CT-scanner technology regularly found ammunition and “contraband left unintentionally in bags”.

Richter said the ban on liquids in carry-on luggage may soon be over at some airports, thanks to new X-ray “diffraction” technology.

The website says the system can detect “multiple liquid explosive threats in containers and inside bags, so passengers do not have to remove carry-on liquids for screening.”

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