As controversy simmers surrounding the levels of radiation used in full body scanners, a small company based in the United Kingdom has developed a machine that emits no radiation at all.
Last year, the US Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) began installing two types of full body scanners at
airport security checkpoints across the country. L3’s Provision millimetre wave scanners
beam radio waves through clothing to detect potentially dangerous objects
hidden by terrorists. Rapiscan backscatter scanners
use low-dose x-rays to do the same.
While both companies and the TSA say the
radiation emitted by these machines is at safe levels, the scientific community
has not reached a strong consensus either way.
Controversy about the use of scanners in the US peaked in late 2010, as
travellers argued that both full-body scans and their alternative -- enhanced pat-downs --
could make Americans feel more, not less, terrorized.
Similar controversy has erupted worldwide, as
airport authorities test the devices in countries like Australia, Germany,
Italy and the UK, although none have adopted the machines for widespread use.
Meanwhile, UK-based company Thruvision has
developed a scanning device that
emits no radiation at all. Instead, it passively reads the terahertz radiation
emitted by humans, and detects anomalies when concealed items block that
radiation. In addition, it does not capture or display intimate body details
thereby removing the need for the “modesty filtering” software recently added in
In July, Thruvision’s terahertz-scanning
technology and L3’s Provision “millimetre wave” were
tested at airports in Sydney and Melbourne. Ron Frye, Thruvision’s Director of International Business Development, said the
scanner successfully spotted contraband on test subjects, but Australian
authorities have not made any firm decisions about the use of any full body
scanner. Bermuda’s airport is using Thruvision, and airport authorities in
Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are considering deploying its
Though the machines are less expensive than
scanners from L3 or Rapiscan, Frye explained, “While our products are used for
security screening at military facilities in the US, we estimate it would cost
$2 to 3 million to get through the TSA testing, evaluation and approval process
for use in airports, which could take two to three years.” Since Thruvision is
a small company, Frye said they’re focusing on airports and other
facilities in Asia and the Middle East.
How do you feel about the use of full-body
scanners at airports? Would you submit to the scan or opt for a pat down
instead? Please leave your comments on our Facebook page.
Chris McGinnis is
the business travel columnist for BBC Travel