July 12 - Surveillance and security detection company FLIR is offering visitors to the Farnborough International Airshow a preview of what they believe will be the airport check-ins of tomorrow. They've devised a series of new high-tech security measures designed to detect dangerous substances both inside and outside the airport terminal, hoping to make international travel safer. Jim Drury reveals all.
At first glance there's nothing out of the ordinary about this airport check-in scene. But FLIR Systems executive Steve Williams is being monitored for dangerous substances, well before reaching airport security. This innocuous looking tube is a radiation detection unit. It's one of FLIR's devices to prevent chemical or biological threats at airports. As he goes through security at this mock airport at the Farnborough Airshow Williams faces a series of sophisticated new checks. SOUNDBITE (English) STEVE WILLIAMS, EUROPEAN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER FOR FLIR, SAYING: "The technology that we have on the radiation side is not necessarily new technology, but we're looking at putting into airports, which is a new deployment....... maybe looking for dirty bombs and discriminating any potential threats. We have two new machines that we are displaying at the show here today. There's the X3, Fido X3, which is a hand-held portable explosives detector, and we have a new bench-top trace detection system called the Griffin 824." Once a potential attacker is pinpointed, security gate staff are alerted. As the target walks through the x-ray scanner, the new Griffin 824 detector detects any miniscule chemical traces. Waiting guards can provide a further check with the lightweight Fido X3, the most sensitive hand-held detector around according to FLIR. SOUNDBITE (English) STEVE WILLIAMS, EUROPEAN BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER FOR FLIR, SAYING: "What's happened is that the radioactive isotope that you see here has been detected by the detectors in the stanchions. Therefore the security guard has now used the portable identifier too to locate that radioactive isotope on my person... so he's now located it, it's an innocent source, therefore we can discount that." FLIR's futuristic security aids include a radar software package called Commandspace Chameleon, to monitor perimeter security. It uses a handful of cameras hooked up to radar, tracking any person or object in real-time at the click of a mouse. FLIR's global business VP David Smith says potential threats can be quashed fast. SOUNDBITE (English) DAVID SMITH, VICE PRESIDENT OF GLOBAL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT FOR FLIR, SAYING: "This is an important surveillance system, it's a very wide area surveillance system in that the technologies that we deploy outside the airport, as well as inside the airport give us a very wide coverage. We're able to look very long distances with our radars. That enables us to pick up the threats much earlier, so that we know as they start to approach the airport we get an early warning sign." FLIR believes that monitoring potential suspects continually can help avoid unnecessary airport closures. Air travel's been blighted by numerous airport shutdowns since the 2001 attacks on New York's Twin Towers. The company's confident that airports worldwide will deploy what they call a 'one-stop security shop' in their bid to make air travel safe. Jim Drury, Reuters