Part of airport dedicated to security checks

UK Government offers funding to create more efficient hand-luggage screening in airports

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The Department for Transport is offering multi-million pound funding to develop technology to screen hand luggage, even when it is not in the main search area of the airport.

The government department will be offering £3 million in research funding for the project, which will be available for university researchers as well as companies to bid for. The department specify that they want to enable “innovative research to develop new ways of detecting explosive devices concealed in electrical items”.

According to the Department of Transport, the project could lead to the development of “portable technology” which would allow for bags to be scanned as passengers check-in to their flight, or walk around airport restaurants and duty-free shops. In the near future, passengers may be able to scan their hand luggage without removing laptops and other devices to have them scanned separately.

“Aviation security is a government priority and one with an ever-changing threat landscape,” said Ben Wallace, the minister for security. “We need to embrace and encourage the talent from industry that will allow us to stay several steps ahead of those who wish us harm.”

Due to the higher frequency of terror terror attacks in the UK during 2017, the national “terror threat level” was briefly raised to “critical” in September, before returning to “severe”, signalling that an attack is very likely.

In a press briefing earlier this week, Andrew Parker, director of MI5, commented that the UK was facing the “highest tempo” of terror threat since the 80s.

Since March, passengers have been controversially banned from bringing laptops and other large devices in their carry-on luggage on some flights arriving from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Egypt. A similar ban affecting flights from the Middle East and North Africa to the US was lifted in July after four months.

“The safety and security of the travelling public will always be our top priority, but we understand that this can sometimes be inconvenient for passengers, especially families with young children,” said Lord Callanan, the minister for aviation, in a statement.

“As technology improves we want to make the aviation experience quicker and easier for all holidaymakers.”

Recently, robotics company Knightscope revealed a range of new security robots, including the K1, a security scanner for use at airports, hospitals and other high-security buildings, in advance of standard security scanners. It uses millimetre-wave technology to detect concealed weapons and radiation.

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