DIAL Resumes Trial Of Full-Body Security Scanners At IGI Airport

by Amit Mishra - Jun 29, 2022 05:48 PM +05:30 IST
DIAL Resumes Trial Of Full-Body Security Scanners At IGI AirportIndira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi (representative image) (Wikipedia/IGI Airport)
Snapshot
  • Full-body scanners can detect non-metal objects, which are hard to detect with the conventional door frame metal detectors.

Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) has started trials of the full-body scanner at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport’s Terminal 2 from 28 June in accordance with the directive of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS).

For testing purposes, the airport has deployed a full-body scanner at the security checkpoint. The trials would be conducted on a real-time basis i.e. passengers would have to pass through it during their security check before moving to the security hold area.

The real-time trials would be carried out for a period of up to 60 days, during which feedback from the BCAS, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), DIAL, and passengers would be taken, examined, and evaluated. After the completion of trials, the findings would be shared with regulatory bodies for evaluation and the further course of action would be decided accordingly.

In addition to this, the door-frame metal detectors would remain in place for special category passengers like those who are wheelchair-bound or cannot physically pass through the full-body scanners.

The trial at IGI is important considering the fact that airports across the country missed the March 2022 deadline for deploying them as directed by the BCAS.

Full Body Scanner

A full-body scanner is a device that detects objects without making physical contact or intruding the privacy of passengers in any way.

Moreover, Full-body scanners can detect non-metal objects, which are hard to detect with the conventional door frame metal detectors [DFMD].

By scanning passengers at the airport using a full-body scanner, one can reveal anything hidden beneath their clothes and thus reduce random pat-downs and strip searches, which ultimately helps personnel from an uncomfortable situation and speed up security checks.

Current Framework

The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, the regulatory authority for civil aviation security in the country, in consultation with other concerned agencies and stakeholders reviews the security systems at airports from time to time and upgrades the same as per requirement.

As per the present rules, no person other than a passenger and persons having legitimate function at an airport or who is directly connected with operation of flights or with the safety and security of civil aviation operations is allowed to enter the airport premises. In order to regulate the entry of persons into the airports, BCAS issues passes for the staff/visitors and vehicles.

For passengers, the Pre-Embarkation Security Checks (PESC) is carried out by the security agency and involves security check before embarkation; and screening of every originating passenger and transfer passenger boarding an aircraft and his hand baggage.

CISF carries out pre-embarkation security check duties under anti-hijacking function in the Security Hold Area. There are different layers and processes for pre-embarkation security checks which include physical screening of passenger (Frisking); hand baggage screening (X-Ray and Explosive Trace Detectors); physical checking of baggage, referred by screeners having security restricted items or doubtful baggage and behaviour detection of passengers.

The screening of passengers, staff and visitors at the entry gates of the airport through Door Frame Metal Detector (DFMD)/ Hand Held Metal Detector (HHMD) and physical frisking on a random basis are carried out depending on local situation and inputs received from the intelligence agencies.

The present system of DFMD/HHMD, besides being obsolete technology, is intrusive on the privacy of passengers.

Real-time trials of a full-body scanner taking place at Terminal 2, Delhi Airport.
Real-time trials of a full-body scanner taking place at Terminal 2, Delhi Airport.

Deployment of Full Body Scanners at Airports

The BCAS has initiated the proposal for installation of Full Body Scanners (FBS) for enhancing the technology of frisking of passengers and faster clearance of queues at frisking points and to ensure zero error for security.

The AvSec Circular 05/2019 issued by the BCAS on 08 April 2019 directed that Full Body Scanner should be installed at all airports at Pre-Embarkation security check points in a phased manner, replacing all Door Frame Metal Detectors but not hand held scanners.

“Of the passengers cleared by the body scanner system, 10 per cent shall be randomly searched. The physical search will include a pat down search. Also, any person who refuses to go through body scanners shall be subjected to the pat down search invariably. At least one set of DFMD shall be maintained for screening of passengers/persons with medical conditions”, added the circular.

Timeline

The BCAS had fixed timeline effective from 08 April 2019 as one year for implementation of the Body Scanner System at hyper-sensitive and sensitive airports and two year for other airports.

The deadline for 90 airports - 28 hyper-sensitive and 62 sensitive airports - was later extended to March 2022 in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and also because airports were reluctant to pay for costly technology. The remaining airports in the country have until December 2022 to implement the technology.

The categorisation of airports, on the basis of intelligence inputs as well as threat and risk assessment, has been made for 118 airports (Hyper-sensitive - 28, Sensitive - 62 and Normal - 28).

It is learnt that while airports have sought another extension, the BCAS has put its foot down. “We have already given airports two years. Our deadline was flouted on the ground that it was a costly technology, and then there was COVID-19. We have now told airports that they have to implement our directive,” Joint Director General of BCAS, Jaideep Prasad, told The Hindu.

Delay in deployment

There are several reasons why airports have delayed buying body scanners. While body scanners offer comprehensive security screening, airport operators have expressed financial constraints in timely installation of Full Body Scanners (each scanner costs Rs 4 crore-Rs 5 crore).

Airports are also worried about the impact on passenger throughput, or passenger flow, and the unlikely impact of this costly technology in reducing deployment of manpower. Passengers have to remove their jackets, thick clothing, shoes, belts as well as all metallic items before passing through the body scanners, which will consume time.

Also the operators are worried about the false alarms. “The scanner will generate several alarms and you will need security personnel to identify their cause,” an airport official said.

Technology conundrum

As per the technical specification framed by the BCAS, the body scanner system shall provide automatic detection over the skin with image free solution using a generic mannequin. Put simply, the system generates a mannequin-like image and threats are graphically presented on it so that security staff can tell the location of these objects for targeted search.

The new scanner installed at Delhi Airport is a millimeter-wave-based scanner, with all medical approvals regarding health risks in place, and completely answers privacy issues and fulfills the technical specification laid down by the BCAS.

The BCAS in 2016 and 2017 had conducted several rounds of trials at the Delhi airport, following which the aviation security regulator recommended millimeter-wave technologies instead of back-scatter and full transmission X-ray technologies.

This was after consulting the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which had expressed concerns about frequent exposure of passengers to X-ray radiation. This millimeter-wave technology also addresses privacy concerns raised by passengers during trials, as it produces a silhouette or a mannequin-like image instead of a naked image.

Also Read: After Two Mid-Air Scare Due To Bird Hits, DGCA Asks Airports To Review 'Wildlife Management Plan'

Amit Mishra is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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