Our last blog touched on the airport patdown, an increasingly common hands-on approach to checking for weapons and other banned items for flying that is gaining a lot of attention of late.
Whether you’re a global statesman like Henry Kissinger, or a 4 year-old travelling with grandparents, you’ve almost certainly experienced a patdown and/or a variety of other security checks when going through airports in North America. This is especially true in the U.S.
A variety of new and updated security technologies are being used in airports these days – along with walk-through x-ray machines – that are meant to expedite the screening process.
Body scanners … These use light doses of radiation to scan through a passenger’s clothes. They are meant to detect anomalies – such as non-metallic, dangerous items – that could then be further examined in a hands-on, pat down search.
Officials at the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration say that about 700 full-body scanners have been deployed to more than 180 airports nationwide since 2007. There are approximately 450 airports in the US with federal security.
Explosive trace detection (ETD) … These devices check for small quantities of explosive materials by way of swabbing a piece of luggage or passenger hands. The swab is then placed inside the ETD unit that analyzes the content for the presence of potential explosive residue.
ETD’s are increasingly popular in airports. Just last week, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority(CATSA) ordered 63 next-generation ETD systems from Morpho Detection. Valued at more than $2 million, these systems will be deployed to airports in Canada to support passenger and baggage screening efforts.
Security dogs … Dogs have been sniffing out dangers for humans for centuries. In modern airports, highly trained dogs are used to smell for drugs and bombs. They can also check for illegally shipped food. This work is done both “behind the scenes” – in secure, out-of-sight areas where luggage and shipped goods are held – and down lines of passengers in check-in areas.
Thermal lie-detection cameras … Some security experts suggest that airport security in the future will use thermal imaging cameras to check if people are telling the truth. These devices capture variations in facial temperature in response to questioning. According to one researcher in this field, “When someone is making something up on the spot, brain activity usually changes and you can detect this through the thermal camera.”
Of course, employing these various security devices requires enormous investments of money, time and patience. And the potential for massive delays can be high.
Just ask Theresa May, Home Secretary in the UK. She, her department and UK Immigration Minister Damian Green are being constantly grilled these days over significant wait times in London’s Heathrow Airport just a few months before the world lands in UK’s biggest city for the Olympics.
This begs the central question – how do governments try to strike the right balance between an individual’s freedom of movement and public security?
We’ll turn to that in our next blog.