A WEST Australian firm has
developed world-leading technology for reliable detection of
explosives in aircraft luggage.
Norman Shanks, a
director of the Perth firm QRSciences, said the technology
operated in a similar manner to medical magnetic resonance
imaging and could detect explosives more reliably and cheaply
than existing airport scanners.
Mr Shanks, the former
head of security at the British Airport Authority and at
London's Heathrow airport, said the terrorist bomb, known in
military terms as an improvised explosive device , placed in
either carry-on or checked luggage still posed a substantial
risk to commercial aircraft.
"You have a better chance
of destroying an aircraft in flight with an IED than you may
have with a MANPADS (man portable air defence system)," he
told reporters in Canberra today.
"That is provided the
countermeasures at that airport are not in place to detect an
Under International Civil Aviation Organisation
rules, airports around the world will have to provide 100 per
cent screening of checked and carry-on baggage by
Australia is now moving to meet this requirement
and representatives of QRSciences were in Canberra today to
brief politicians about just what their technology can
It's been under development for seven years and has
already been trialed successfully at Perth Airport and in the
UK and Canada. It's been tested and approved by the US
Transportation Security Administration.
It uses a
technique known as quadrupole resonance under which the target
baggage is subject to radio waves tuned to a specific compound
such as narcotics, plastic explosives or any of some 20,000
If that material is detected, the
machine sounds an alarm.
Mr Shanks said this was far
more reliable than existing airport technology which used
X-rays and computer tomography scanners and relied heavily on
the skill and alertness of the operator.
"If a security
operator makes a bad judgment, potentially you lose a whole
aircraft," he said.