Paris Air Show unveils robots to replace airport staff

Robots could soon be replacing immigration officers for much faster identification of criminals in airports after new technology was unveiled at the Paris Air Show this week.

Electrical systems company Thales unveiled its new equipment designed to speed up a traveller's passage through an airport by streamlining the process with robots and biometric data. The machine scans passports and prints boarding passes and takes snapshots of the traveller’s face and iris, shared with computers around the airport.

The images will be in the system by the time the passenger gets to the immigration desk, allowing a tall, white robot to confirm the person’s identity on the spot, with no intervention from the human border staff. “You would only need one agent for every four or five machines", said Pascal Zenoni, a Thales manager presenting the equipment at the air show. “These systems can free up staff for the police and create more space in the airport.”

The passenger’s face is also printed in encrypted form on the boarding pass so that it can be scanned by staff at the gate for a final identity check, the AFP report said. The French company Thales hopes to branch into biometric passports and ID cards for 25 countries.

Thales were not the only ones looking to subvert the traditional working practices of airports, as competitor Safran also presented a system to cope with the data being collected on passengers. Their analytical tool, due for test in September, is expected to gather data on more than 100 million travellers from up to 230 airlines every year.

It is programmed to scan records, checking against more than 300 behavioural 'warning signs' and it also runs checks against Interpol and other police records, primarily looking for terrorists and criminals. Although similar programs currently exist, Safran aims to offer a more thorough search.

“Our priority has always been to reduce the number of false alarms,” said Samuel Fringant, from Morpho's security division and subsidiary of Safran. “Our system adapts constantly from the information it receives.”

“That is necessary because you are always in a race between the people operating the system and people trying to cheat it,” added Luc Tombal, from the company's border control business unit.

Talk of the town at the world’s top showcase for the aerospace industry was Airbus and Boeing, at loggerheads over aircraft orders. It was reported that the European plane maker has taken 421 orders worth more than £35m, cashing in on a last minute deal for 110 A321 with Hungary’s Wizz Air.

Boeing took 331 orders worth around £30m, but it arguably got more coverage this week thanks to footage of the near-vertical take-off of its Dreamliner. Since Boeing released the video of the new 787-9 passenger jet heading up almost vertically, it amassed nearly 10 million views on YouTube.

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