Cardiff Airport: Could space-age scanner cut queues?

media captionThe airport scanner using technology designed to explore the furthest reaches of the galaxy

Airport security queues caused by people having to remove coats, belts and shoes could be a thing of the past thanks to space technology.

A new scanner is being trialled at Cardiff Airport which uses a system developed to study the outer reaches of the galaxy.

It can pick up the glow of a light bulb 500,000 miles away.

The new scanner sees a passenger's body lit up to take an image as they walk through it.

This then makes it easy to detect any concealed items - even through clothing, according to Cardiff University, which has been working to develop the new scanner.

"Passenger numbers are expected to double in 20 years, putting airport security facilities under immense pressure," said Ken Wood, from Sequestim - a venture set up by the university and QMC Instruments and part-funded through a UK government defence and aviation scheme.

image copyrightSequestim
image captionThe scanner would mean people would not need to put coats and shoes in trays at security

The technology uses the body as a source of light, which differs to traditional scanners that process reflected waves as the passenger strikes a pose.

Because it is so sensitive it can pick up a light bulb twice the distance of the moon away - and it can quickly detect any object being carried.

The computer system also learns to distinguish between items that can and cannot be taken on the aircraft.

"The detector technology was originally developed to study the most distant astronomical phenomena," added Mr Wood.

"For example, we study how stars are born from gigantic clouds of gas and dust."

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Cardiff Airport, which is carrying out the trial until 7 December, was bought by the Welsh Government for £52m in 2013 and nearly 1.5m passengers passed through it in 2017.

"This cutting-edge security camera not only promises a huge improvement in our experience of air travel, but also brings with it the prospect of job creation as Sequestim aims to manufacture future scanners here in Wales," said First Minister Carwyn Jones.

UK Aviation Minister Liz Sugg added: "Passenger safety across all modes of transport remains an important priority for the government."

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