US transport authority invests in mm-wave security detectors

UK-based security technology firm QinetiQ has won a contract to supply the US Transportation Security Administration with detectors that use passive millimetre-wave technology to spot objects concealed under passengers' clothing

The TSA has purchased 12 of the SPO units, for use in US airports, ports, railway and bus stations, for an undisclosed sum under an 'indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity' contract that allows for additional purchases over the next two years. The agreement follows recent operational trials at the Staten Island ferry terminal and Pier 90 in New York.

The SPO system is particularly suitable for busy environments because it can detect concealed threats that might be explosive devices at distances up to 20 metres without asking passengers to slow their pace.

Although this is the first major sale of SPO, QinetiQ's BorderWatch system, which also uses millimetre-wave technology, is already used by the UK Home Office to detect illegal immigrants at the Channel Tunnel and elsewhere.

Tripod-mounted cameras use millimetre wave scanning combined with sophisticated software algorithms to screen people one at a time. By comparing emissions at particular frequencies with those expected from the human body the device can determine whether a passenger is carrying any 'cold' objects, such as metals, plastics, liquids and ceramics, concealed under their clothing. Suspicious objects trigger a red light on the display monitor, prompting the operator to search the individual.

Graham Love, group chief executive of QinetiQ, said the deal is a good example of synergies that have been made possible by the development of the company's North America arm. "We expect to see further significant deployments of this and other QinetiQ security technologies to worldwide markets in the future," said Love.

Image: The SPO system can 'see' through clothing from 20 metres away

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