Five things to consider when securing your airport from all threats; CBRNE to Narcotics, by Mal Maginnis, President of Smiths Detection.

Smith Detection’s Eqo system is ultra-compact and uses non-ionising millimetre-wave technology to screen people for hidden threats like narcotics, liquids, weapons or a metallic or ceramic knife. (All images – Smiths Detection)

As airports face the challenge of detecting chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRNE) threats, as well as narcotics to provide both a safe and cost-effective environment for the traveller, the multi-layered approach to security has emerged as the preferred solution.
There is simply no magic ‘single bullet’ to safeguard society, protect life and support the free flow of trade in global transport.  However, based on Smiths Detection’s experience of providing CBRNE detection equipment, I would offer five key considerations on how to implement the layered approach to meets the needs of airports around the world:
Enhance Existing Technology.  The most effective tools for detecting contraband, from CBRNE to narcotics, are often not completely new, but enhanced versions of technology that already exists.  Continued investments in research and development by Smiths Detection and other security companies have resulted in technological advances able to address evolving CBRNE threats.  For example, there have been major developments in x-ray technology, including an upgrade from single view x-ray inspection to multi-view x-ray inspection systems.  Multi-view systems take images from different angles during one screening pass to provide more information in the identification of threats, such as explosives or narcotics, hidden in personal belongings.  This simultaneously helps maintain the screening speed, especially beneficial during high-peak travel times.
Balance Security and Speed. Time is valuable – not only for security personnel during critical decision-making – but also to every traveller, whether on business or personal travel.  Effective screening technology needs to identify any threats, including narcotics, but also keep people moving quickly through security lines.  For example, the TSA is starting to deploy alternate viewing stations, with keyboards and monitors stationed away from baggage x-ray machines.  Suspicious bags are shifted away along with the original scanned images to an alternate station to conduct a thorough secondary analysis, while keeping the security line moving to maximise passenger throughput.
Economise Space and Energy. Advances in CBRNE and narcotics detection have also led to technology with a smaller space footprint and energy requirement.  A focus on these attributes in purchases can significantly reduce total upgrade costs over the life of the technology.  There are often secondary benefits of saving space, as with Smith Detection’s Eqo system, which is ultra-compact and uses non-ionising millimetre-wave technology to screen people for hidden threats, like narcotics, liquids, weapons or a metallic or ceramic knife.

Consider Total Costs. While the initial price of new technology may seem high, stakeholders can actually save money if the core technology can be upgraded to address new and emerging threats.  For example, a ‘platform-based’ system permits the integration of replacement control systems and technologies at a fraction of their initial total cost.  This is preferable to replacing the entire system, which involves logistical support, to meet changing regulatory standards.  This can add years to the lifecycle of the deployed technology and provide a development revenue stream to the OEM – a win-win for both.
Manage Technology Investments and Personnel Costs. Highly-effective and accurate threat detectors and identifiers can make a valuable contribution to the goal of efficient and cost-effective manpower – one of the biggest costs in airport security.  Europe is already employing automated check-point lanes to optimise efficiency of the passenger screening process and keep up with high security standards, without sacrificing security detection capabilities.
As we continue to fight evolving threats in our world, from CBRNE to narcotics, advanced technologies continue to demonstrate they can provide practical solutions to airport security at reasonable costs.  These layered solutions help airport operators extract the most value for their money while still providing the most advanced level of security needed in passenger and cargo screening.