Test of new airport scanner technology

Thursday 22 Sep 16


Ulrik Lund Olsen
Senior Research Engineer
DTU Physics
+45 24 65 51 69

New X-ray scan possibilities

Researchers at the DTU Imaging Centre are working on developing and honing the use of X-rays and 3D reconstruction. In this connection they have, among other things, identified mathematical methods for generating 3D models of luggage that offer clear distinction between e.g. liquids and laptops—without placing them in separate plastic trays. DTU has also developed automatic classification algorithms to guide airport staff, allowing them to easily recognize prohibited articles on their monitors in future.

Security checks an increasing problem at airports

Security checks are increasingly creating bottlenecks at airports. Reasons for this are:

  • Increased security requirements following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, and growing security threats.
  • Increasing number of passengers. Globally, approx. 3.5 billion passengers moved through airport security checks last year.
  • Stressed and dissatisfied passengers negatively affect airport earnings.

In future, you may be able to leave your laptop and fluids in your carry-on luggage when passing through airport security checks.

DTU has developed a new X-ray technique which enables airport scanners to distinguish between allowed and prohibited contents of a bag, even if you leave your laptop and any fluids in the bag.

The new technique has been made possible because researchers have identified fast and efficient methods to achieve a far greater contrast between different types of materials in X-ray scans.

“We use newly developed X-ray colour cameras (multispectral cameras) in the scanner, combined with mathematical methods to generate 3D models of the luggage. In this way, liquids such as water, alcohol, and acetone can be represented in different ways, enabling airport staff to distinguish non-hazardous fluids from those not allowed on flights,” explains Project Manager Ulrik Lund Olsen, DTU Physics.

Test of passenger interaction
The new technique is part of a new overall concept for airport security checks, developed by the company Exruptive and supported, among others, by the Innovation Fund Denmark. The system is currently being tested at Skydstrup Airport in Vojens, Denmark.

In addition to the new scanners, the system also includes a trolley made of composite plastic with a weak X-ray impression. Passengers place their carry-on luggage in the trolley after having received their boarding pass, and the entire trolley is then run through the X-ray scanner, while the passenger (as is the case today) walks through a metal detector and possibly a body scanner.

“Yesterday, we tested passenger response to the new system using 90 volunteers from local Vojens associations acting as air passengers. Fortunately, everything went well—now only a few adjustments remain,” explains Jakob Schmidt, CEO of Exruptive.

He expects the new system to be implemented in an airport within the next few years, with a capacity of handling up to 600 passengers per hour compared to 150 passengers in current security lines.

About Exruptive

Danish company behind the development of a new concept for airport security checks.

The concept consists of a new safety scanner combined with an intelligent trolley acting as the passenger’s personal assistant through the airport. Among other things, the trolley can provide information about safety procedures, shopping opportunities, gate location, and boarding time. The trolley features a positioning system that allows passengers to find their bearings on an interactive airport map and shows them the way to the gate.

All of this is designed to improve the entire airport experience for passengers, while at the same time increasing airport capacity.

Further information about the new concept can be found at www.exruptive.com.