New updated scanners from Bureau of Civil Aviation Security(BCAS) will let pasengers zip through airports without removing laptops for screening that is to be deployed in Inidian airports very soon.
The long queues of air travellers removing their laptops, mobile phones and chargers from their cabin baggage before screening them could soon become history in India. The aviation security regulator, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), is expected to issue technical norms within a month which will pave the way for airports to adopt modern equipment to screen bags without removing electronic devices.
“All airports, including Delhi airport, need to improve the machines deployed for screening of cabin bags. They are lagging behind. Technologies such as dual x-ray, computer tomography and neutron beam technology will eliminate the need for passengers to remove laptops and other electronic devices,” a senior official of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which oversees airport security reported to News media recently.
The call for modernisation comes at a time when airports across the country are seeing a record number of air travellers that have already exceeded pre-Covid levels. A total of 4.27 lakh domestic travellers were seen on December 11,2022. At Delhi airport, which recently witnessed scenes of over-crowding resulting in passengers missing their flights, security lanes were found to be the biggest congestion points primarily because the number of x-ray machines for screening cabin bags were not commensurate with passenger traffic during peak hours.
Senior government officials have blamed airports for failing to grow their infrastructure to cater to growing number of flights and passengers, and Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia stepped in to order the airport operator to provide more machines for screening cabin bags. While CISF provides its personnel, security infrastructure at airports is the airport operator’s perogative.
While the traditional x-ray machines currently used at airports produce a 2-D image, newer technologies such as computer tomography produce a 3-D image with a higher resolution, and have better automated detection of explosives. They also have a low rate of the false alarms which often lead to CISF personnel requiring a physical inspection of a bag. These factors result in a higher baggage throughput (or flow) through the machine.
Faster passenger flow
“Better technology will result in a faster throughput, and will allow airports to accommodate more flights per hour and will ultimately allow for growth in the aviation sector. This will also make up for the investment made in acquiring new equipment,” the senior CISF official said.
He also said that it was not acceptable to blame security personnel for congestion as they were under immense pressure because their job is a “zero error business”.
The technical specifications for modern machines for screening cabin bags are likely to be issued within a month, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. These will accompany a new set of technical specifications and trial directives for the much-delayed full-body scanners to be installed at airports for detecting non-metallic items on passengers once they pass through the existing door-frame metal detectors.
Chinese scanners dropped
The Airports Authority of India had to withdraw a 2019 tender for the full-body scanners which had been awarded to Chinese company Nuctech, following a government advisory in 2020 barring purchases from bordering countries after the standoff at Doklam. The cancellation of the tender also meant that airports would now have to spend double the money in acquiring body scanners from American companies such as Smiths and L-3 or Germany’s Rohde & Schwarz.
Since the uproar on over-crowding in the past two weeks, Delhi airport has provided space and equipment for additional security lanes at both domestic and international sections of Terminal 3 as well as Terminal 2, which is for domestic flights only.
The CISF has also deployed 262 personnel over and above the 4,800 already deployed at Delhi airport alone. Leaves and weekly offs for most personnel have also been cancelled till the end of January. Only 1.8% of the total personnel deployed are allowed to avail a weekly off.