As air travel has gone from a niche activity to a worldwide industry, so too has airport security which has gone from simple passport control to one of the most high-tech fields in public and private protection. Travel and transportation hubs have always been targets for terror attacks and potential nexuses for criminal activity; given the nature of air travel, preventing these and ensuring public safety is more paramount than in any other industry.
Naturally, no technology can ever fully replace the need for trained, alert security staff – but here are a few of the more sophisticated tools used at the cutting edge of airport security:
Biometrics: One of the most popularly known and increasingly used technical solutions to ensuring the security of restricted areas, biometric scanners allow access to be screened by something far more unique than an ID card or knowledge of a password. This kind of equipment can replace codes, keys, smart cards and other types of pass – all vulnerable to theft or accidental loss – by identifying people by their unique physical characteristics. Fingerprints or retinal patterns are unique to each individual, making these systems far harder to compromise than their traditional predecessors.
Ground-based Radar: The unique terrain of a modern airport means that a technology long used to detect airborne objects can actually be of use on the ground. Ground-based radar systems can provide an effective automatic perimeter security system for large open spaces – such as runways or the empty ground surrounding airfields – in all weather conditions and light levels. Moving objects can be immediately located as soon as they enter the range of the system, providing a powerful tool in advance detection of intruders.
Metal Detectors: Strictly speaking, the majority of metal detectors are hardly ‘cutting edge’ – they’ve been in place for decades after all. However, recent advances have made the technology much more sophisticated. New ‘zoning’ devices can detect the precise location of any weapons or metallic contraband on the body and can even target specific metals or alloys.
Fever Detection systems: Terror attacks and criminal activities are not the only hazards that airport security has to consider. In a worldwide community where any destination can be reached in hours, preventing the spread of disease and viral infections is an important responsibility. Infrared and thermal imaging cameras provide an effective solution to identifying those suffering from influenza, SARS or other variants. This can help prevent a small outbreak from becoming a pandemic of global proportions.
By: Joel Boness