Manchester Airport confirmed today that its trial of ‘naked’ body scanners will end on 1st October 2012 when testing begins on a new generation of privacy friendly security scanners.
The current body scanners will initially be replaced by five next generation security scanners. In line with UK Government policy, these include a feature that automatically processes images of passengers using a system that eliminates the need for an airport security officer to view the ghost-like body outlines that made the airport’s body scanners famous.
The new machines, manufactured by L3, scan passengers using radio frequency-based millimetre wave technology rather than the low dose x-rays used by the current backscatter body scanners. A computer analyses the scans and tells airport staff where to look for hidden objects using a stick figure diagram.
A similar technology is used in safety systems to identify humans or objects that have fallen on to subway rail tracks in the USA.
Despite a panel of independent European health experts unanimously concluding in March that there was no evidence that backscatter body scanners posed health risks, airport bosses say its current trial will close in six weeks because legislation from Brussels excludes the technology.
“We are baffled by this situation because health experts say they are safe, plus the overwhelming majority of our passengers and security staff prefer body scanners to frisking and it is frustrating that Brussels has allowed this successful trial to end,” said Andrew Harrison, Chief Operating Officer at MAG, Manchester Airport’s parent company.
“Our security surveys and those run by the Department for Transport show passengers regularly rate their experience at Manchester as one of the best security processes in the UK, if not Europe. There is no doubt that body scanners play a big part in these results. That’s why we are once again investing in new next generation scanner technology where the human examination of images is automated.”
Five new security scanners in total will start to be installed across all three terminals and transfer lounges at Manchester Airport from 1st October 2012 in a trial expected to last three months.
Airport bosses are hopeful that the trial will be a success so that it can invest in more machines. In the meantime, an additional 55 full-time security staff will ensure that the current high levels of security and customer service are maintained through a combination of frisking and security scanners.