Airport security, explosive detection | Homeland Security Newswire

Airport securityU.K. gov. launches £3M competition for innovative airport bomb-detection tech

Published 16 January 2018

Two U.K. government ministries — the Home Office and Department for Transport—have launched a Dragons’ Den-style investment prize, hoping to find innovative ways to detect bombs in laptops, phones, and cameras carried by passengers on board. The government has announced a £3 million competition in an effort to attract scientists and inventors to help the security services and the airline industry keep up with the nefarious ingenuity of terrorists.

Two U.K. government ministries — the Home Office and Department for Transport—have launched a Dragons’ Den-style investment prize, hoping to find innovative ways to detect bombs in laptops, phones, and cameras carried by passengers on board.

The government has announced a £3 million SOS in an effort to attract scientists and inventors to help the security services and the airline industry keep up with the nefarious ingenuity of terrorists.

The competition will be open until 15 February.

The Home Office’s website says: “The competition is looking for proposals for technologies to improve our ability to prevent explosives hidden within electrical items in hand luggage from being taken on board an aircraft.”

The Sun reports that the competition follows the March 2017 ban the U.K. government imposed on carrying large electronic devices in the cabin of U.K.-bound planes from several Middle Eastern and African countries.

The ban was imposed after revelations that U.K. security services had thwarted thirteen terrorist plots in less than four years.

The restrictions on large phones, laptops, and tablets were lifted on flights from some of the airports in Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia – but they remain in place on flights from other airports in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, as well as some airports in Turkey and Egypt.

The government says it hope that the technology would help produce a technology which would rule out “invasive and time-consuming” airport searches and reduce the need for extra security.

A government spokesperson added: “We’re confident in the ability of current processes used to detect threats, but are aware that we need to stay ahead of changes to the threat.

“We’re not just looking for solutions to detect concealed explosive devices/components. We’d also be interested in solutions to identify electrical items that may have been tampered with, or which appear to be out of the ordinary.

“This could allow us to focus the more resource intensive detection techniques on a smaller number of items.”

The competition calls for technology which would be deployed at airports’ central search areas and at the final departure screening point.

Following the ban, restrictions on

Philip Baum, an aviation safety expert and editor of Aviation Security International, told the Sun that the sheer variety of explosives means bomb-detecting technology is difficult to get right.

“Every bomb is different. Different component parts, different materials.

“Not all explosives are the same. There are thousands of different types. Powder, gels, cord, liquid.

“We have to think about how the broad range of explosives are going to be concealed.”

He added: “For me, the biggest problem is, could it ID all types of IED, is it going to id chemical or biological bombs. No, because that would be different.

“Government is desperate to find a technological solution to resolve the problem and there is a huge reluctance to use the best technology of all - and that is the human brain. Using some common sense.

“Behavioral analysis is one thing. Non-racial profiling techniques.

“We have been installing X-ray machines since the 1960s, but we are assuming people are going to go through the machine and not go round the side or an attack on the check-in, like in Brussels.

“We must think and look at the behavior pattern and assess people. Looking for people with criminal activity or mental problems.

“That [a new bomb-detecting device] assumes nobody will have something in their body.”

— Read more in Competition document: finding explosives hidden in electrical items (U.K. Department of Transport, U.K. Home Office, 12 January 2018)