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Security scanners go big, aim for whole planes

Oct. 31, 2011 at 5:18 PM   |   Comments

RIO DE JANEIRO, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Anti-terrorism and security scanning is aiming for bigger targets including whole aircraft as part of an effort to cut costs and simplify monitoring processes.

By commissioning machines that detect organic threats, drugs, explosives and other suspect materials, governments are hoping they'll build efficiencies into systems that are claiming escalating costs.

Critics of the scanning systems say the devices, getting larger by the day, invade privacy and those using X-rays raise questions about public health and safety.

In July the U.S. Transportation Security Administration announced it was updating scanner software to end the use of images that show a passenger's naked body by the end of 2011, but the software is still in wide use elsewhere in the Americas.

Competing security companies have pledged to pursue more research to remove intrusive scanning features and also to develop more diversified non-X-ray scanners for commercial use

Critics say the radiation emitted by some full-body scanners is as much as 20 times stronger than officially reported and is not safe to use on large numbers of persons because of an increased risk of cancer.

Critics also reject manufacturers' claims the radiation is dispersed throughout the body when scanning is under way, pointing out those being scanned are most exposed to X-rays on their skin and tissue immediately underneath.

Despite the controversy, body and merchandise scanning has grown into a multibillion dollar business in response to terrorism threats. In Latin America, scanners are being adopted in large numbers by border security agencies under international pressure to stem the flow of drugs to North America and elsewhere.

American Science and Engineering, Inc., a leading worldwide supplier of X-ray detection devices, said the Dutch Customs Administration in the Netherlands will deploy its Z Backscatter Van mobile X-ray screening system to inspect commercial and cargo airplanes.

Anthony Fabiano, AS&E's president and chief executive officer, said the Dutch authorities had embarked on a "trend setting" use of the company's non-intrusive detection system to scan whole aircraft;

"Dutch Customs is leveraging the ZBV system's flexible, mobile design to scan airplanes of all sizes for drugs and contraband," Fabiano said.

Variations on the scanning device were deployed in Central and South America to monitor the region's growing international trucking traffic.

The ZBV system is a screening system built into a commercially available delivery van. The ZBV system can be deployed easily in response to security threats, and its high throughput capability facilitates rapid inspections, says the company.

The ZBV system has been well-received worldwide with more than 560 systems sold to 115 customers in 53 countries.

The ZBV system reveals organic threats and contraband that transmission X-rays often miss, such as explosives and drugs, and provides photo-like imaging for rapid analysis. The system can drive by and scan a variety of aircraft sizes and configurations and can reveal organic contraband hidden in the structure of an aircraft.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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