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Wednesday, 02 October 2019 17:07

Improved carry-on baggage screening at Melbourne Airport Featured

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An upgrade at Melbourne Airport's Terminal 4 means passengers will no longer have to remove laptops when their baggage is being checked. The new system is also claimed to provide much speedier transit through this much-hated aspect of flying.

Following a trial of one upgraded lane in 2018, T4 has now swapped all six security lanes to the new system.

The basis of the improved scanning is a Smiths Detection HISCAN 6040 CTiX scanner that operates as a CT (computed tomography) scanner, capturing approximately 1000 images to create a 3D spatial image of the bag.

Further, the screening management software will automatically assist staff to identify suspect items in a bag. As seen in most systems, there will be an operator sitting close to the scanning unit to assess it in real-time and a checking operator to assess "detected" bags. Of great interest is that when their own lane is quiet, primary operators are able to electronically step in and take on assessment load from other lanes.

While visiting today, iTWire was shown the use of a test bag that contained a small package of simulated explosive that was hidden amongst many other items (including a laptop). This was automatically detected by the software and the bag was isolated for further checking. Similarly, another test bag had a small pocket knife which was also easily detected.

All trays on the scanning platform are uniquely labelled and for any bag, the operator need only scan the tray to have the image shown on their screen. When reviewing a bag, the operator was able to use the touch-screen to rotate the image in any direction and zoom in or out as required, with automatically detected items highlighted. This is why laptops can remain in bags as they no longer obscure items from the operator's view.

Further, the new lanes make use of an automated tray return system – international travellers may have seen a similar system in Dubai, amongst other locations.

Scott Dullard, head of Security & Emergency, Aviation, for Melbourne Airport, indicated to iTWire that the previous system could screen a maximum of 2000 passengers per hour. The new system would be easily able to increase that to 3000. Further, since passengers are more quickly able to present their luggage for screening, and collect it afterwards, they found it necessary to add extra body scanners to optimise throughput. These new body scanners also use advanced technology and are not metal detectors.

In addition, this (almost) consigns the explosive detection desk to the trash can. It's likely to only be used to confirm the validity of a substance when the automated system detects explosives.

Anecdotal evidence from passengers has been positive, with Dullard noting just yesterday a fist-pump from a traveller when told his laptop could stay in the bag. Travellers with metal implants are also much happier.

There will be two further lanes installed in T4 and seven in T2, the International terminal. Discussions are on-going for T3 (which may divert all security scanning to T4) and for T1 (the Qantas terminal), control of which recently reverted to the Melbourne Airport management body.  Other Australian airports are likely to follow suit in the next few months or years.

The Smith Detection HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX has achieved the highest level of Transportation Security Administration AT-2 certification and European Civil Aviation Conference EDS CB C3 approval for the security screening of carry-on baggage. 

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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