Groves of academeGroves of academe: UB professor studies human factors in airline security

Published 2 December 2005

University of Buffalo professor Colin Drury has made a career out of studying how people can be taught to spot very rare events that carry very high consequences. Drury, chair of the Department of Industrial Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, specializes in combining human factors, human error, and quality control into a coherent research program. He has pioneered many innovations designed to reduce human errors in both the maintenance of aircraft and the screening of passengers. “The technology is different in an aviation security environment than it is for aircraft maintenance, but the human factors issues are the same,” said Drury. “In both cases, we are looking for very rare events with very high consequences that are inherently difficult to detect.” Drury is currently working with security screeners at airports to determine the best ways to do X-ray inspections for knives, guns, and improvised explosive devices. He and his colleagues also are developing staffing models for airports, using industrial engineering principles to determine the optimal levels for keeping passengers flowing through airports efficiently without compromising security.

Drury directs UB’s Research Institute for Safety and Security in Transportation (RISST), which studies how human factors contribute to errors and inefficiencies in security systems, such as those used to inspect baggage and screen passengers in airports. RISST was established in 2004 with a $538,000 grant from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

-read more in the University of Buffalo’s news release