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Sunday 31 August 2014

New bomb scanners will reduce wait time at airports

Mark O'Regan

Published 23/06/2014 | 02:30

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Passengers queue to check in and to re-book tickets at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport after a "technical problem" with air traffic control
Passengers queue to check in and to re-book tickets at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport after a "technical problem" with air traffic control

LONG queues and strict guidelines over liquids on board planes could soon be a thing of the past with the arrival of sophisticated bomb detection scanners at Dublin Airport.

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And baby food – an ongoing headache at security barriers for parents travelling with young children – can now be cross-checked without the need to open containers.

INSIGHT 100 Liquid Explosive Detection System (LEDS) uses laser-based technology to screen liquids, powders, aerosols and gels. It can investigate sealed containers for possible explosives within five seconds.

It's also possible to operate it in conjunction with standard X-ray security machines.

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has purchased up to nine 'Insight 100' scanners – costing about €50,000 each – in a bid to make identifying liquids carried in hand luggage easier.

The device works by shining a laser beam directly at the bottle, which returns a spectrum of light. The scanner then cross-checks the container against a library of recognised dangerous liquids deemed as potential threats.

A foiled 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic flights leaving London for North America using explosives concealed in bottles led to restrictions on travellers taking drinks and toiletries on board planes.

EU guidelines stipulate that only liquids of 100ml, or less, are allowed on an aircraft. Thousands of containers that don't meet this ruling are abandoned every day at airports, resulting in lengthy queues at security.

But that could be set to change.

Industry experts envisage that emerging technologies will allow airports to end the ban in just 18 months, by 2016.

European airports are spending in excess of €150m in equipping passenger screening areas with the latest technology.

At present, any liquid items being transferred through another airport must be checked in these bomb detection devices.

Essential

The first phase of recent EU regulations is limited to the screening of 'transfer' duty free purchases carried in sealed bags, and liquids carried for medical and essential dietary purposes.

Baby foods are subject to this liquid detection also.

In a statement to the Irish Independent, the DAA said it had sufficient machines for the number of transferring passengers at the moment. "We keep this under review and, if required, we will purchase more as numbers increase."

Figures show that in the first three years of the ban, almost 33,000 items were surrendered to Dublin Airport security staff.

These included an estimated 4,000 bottles of wine, 6,500 bottles of spirits, 1,500 bottles of cream liquors, 14,600 bottles and cans of beer, 4,500 quarter bottles of wines and spirits. A further 750 perfume and body lotion gift sets were also seized.

Irish Independent

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