key.aero takes a brief look at the new body scanners being introduced at UK airports this year. For a fuller feature see the April issue of Airliner World magazine, on sale in early March.
On February 1, 2010, the United Kingdom Government approved the use of passenger body scanners at UK airports. The legislation stipulates that anyone refusing to be scanned will be banned from flying. Such scanners are currently in operation at London/Heathrow’s Terminal 4 and Manchester’s Terminal 2, but will be expanded to other airports when new units are ready for delivery.
There are currently two main passenger scanning technologies available that look at the human body for potential threats – backscatter and millimetre wave (MMW). Backscatter technology bounces very low energy x-rays off a person to generate an image, while MMW uses millimetre wave energy to create an image of the human body – and can be used on moving ‘targets’.
Body scanners are not intended to replace the normal security procedures, which will still pick up the vast majority of potential threats such as weapons and explosives. They are meant as an extra check to find any items that may have been missed. Not all travellers will be selected for scanning. There is no minimum age for being scanned and this is intended to deter terrorists from using children to smuggle potentially dangerous items on board an aircraft.
For a brief video on how the system at Manchester Airport operates, click below: