Advanced technologies that can inspect passengers for any concealed object rather than just metal items are set to revolutionise the way we are screened at airport checkpoints. Whole body imagers or BDS (Body-worn-threat Detection Systems) are based on technologies that have evolved rapidly over the past few years. In the long run, millimetre wave systems could prove the best solution. Smiths Detection will launch one such innovative people screening system that uses next generation millimetre-wave imaging to detect concealed body-worn threats. The product – called ‘eqo’ because of its working principle of sensing millimetre-wave echoes – takes people-screening applications on to an entirely new level in terms of detection, image appearance and mode of operation.
The technical approach lends itself to aviation applications where high detection accuracy and high throughput are required to maintain both the security standards and processing requirements. For this new approach to be successful, the technical solution must also fit into the existing checkpoint layout and process with minimal disruption. These objectives drove the development of ‘eqo’ that produces high-definition, live imagery from a system that matches the typical constraints of the current checkpoint layout.
Availability and reliability are also key factors for any checkpoint equipment, and these qualities were paramount in developing this system that can deliver extended operational up-time with low service and maintenance requirements.
The Smiths Detection eqo system uses a ground-breaking process to solve many of the limitations that image-based people screening has encountered to date. The innovative use of a flat panel, reflect array technology – a kind of millimetre wave ‘mirror’ – has resulted in a compact product format that delivers the superior image quality required for the highest detection standards. This technology marks the evolution of millimetre wave imaging products from mechanically scanned to electronically steered systems with the resulting improvements in image quality, system reliability and footprint.
The active millimetre-wave technology and large aperture panel that eqo uses to generate images combine to create video-like, high resolution images for the screening operator. Even objects of the dimension of small coins are visible in the images. Screening operators have full control over the image sequences to facilitate analysis and detection.
Open plan screening area
In checkpoints where space is a premium, eqo’s small footprint dimensions are a clear advantage for integration into existing security channels. Occupying little floor space, eqo is easily configured into current lanes without requiring major alterations to standard layouts and operations. The system is configured to create a natural portal entrance into an open area in front of the imaging panel where both operators and passengers have full freedom of movement and are in direct communication with each other. The open plan nature of the screening area brings added benefits to the operation. eqo’s particular mode of operation allows for passengers to be accompanied into the screening area while being scanned. This is important for instance where passengers with reduced mobility can be helped through the screening operation by a travelling companion.
The live display of the millimetre-wave image sequence to the operator means that screening and detection of concealed objects can start as soon as the passenger enters the inspection zone. This full motion image feed – without any delay in the presentation to the operator – means that passengers are checked in minimum time and channel throughputs are kept to a maximum. From a technical viewpoint, the move from mechanically scanned to electronically steered imaging also has significant implications for cost of ownership. Because eqo is a ‘no moving parts’ system, the potential for high running-time with a low maintenance/service load will bring clear benefits.