Events such as 11 September 2001 or the hijacking of Air France flight 8969 (in 1994) display the air transport security problem. Security has always been a priority for the EU aviation industry, as airports represent a natural target for terrorist acts. Nevertheless, the airport security measures haven't always been effective and many past tragedies have been the result of not noticing people carrying masked of hidden explosive materials or weapons. Today, travellers are only quickly screened by walk through metal detectors before entering the "sterile area", while X-ray machines are used for screening carry-on and checked baggage.
The overall objective of ATOM project is to design and develop an innovative (multi-sensor based) detection and surveillance system able to enhance the security level in airport area. This innovative system will detect hidden hazardous materials and/or tools, and will track people bringing these materials. It will operate without interfering with the normal airport operations, while (at the same time) it will directly enhance airport security. The ATOM system will also in-directly contribute to protect aircraft from terrorists or similar dangers.
This ATOM systems will integrate active and passive radar sensors, thus improving the security level in the Terminal Area of the airport. The ATOM system will be a non-intrusive but pervasive security system. It will not require ad hoc check points for passengers. Thus:
- the ATOM system will not interfere with normal passengers flow;
- it will become difficult for ill-intentioned people to identify where sensors are placed and to cheat controls. The pervasiveness of ATOM systems derives from the capability of ATOM sub-systems of monitoring wide airport areas and of detecting many kinds of hidden hazardous objects.
The system is build around two separate and integrated controls:
- one at the Terminal Entries, equipped with innovative active devices and able to detect and identify dangerous concealed tools;
- the other in Airport Halls (before the gate area) equipped with new passive RF sensors able to track suspicious people/containers.
The information resulting from the integrated controls will be managed in a secure way within the airport information networks, allowing security operators to face threats in the most suitable way. Thus minimizing the risk for people inside the Terminal Area.
ATOM implemented a multi-sensor monitoring system of the entire terminal area for:
- early detection of suspect items (materials and people)
- racking of the suspect persons until the alarm finishes
- use of non-intrusive technologies and devices.
The system architecture involved:
- The detection system (detecting possible threats such as weapons and sharp objects, explosives, flammable and toxic substances and integrating a microwave imaging sensor at 15-35 GHz frequency with a W-band detection radar)
- The tracking system (activated only when the management block alerts it, i.e. when the data provided by the detection system suggest the presence of a threat in the terminal area)
- The communication network (based on a mix of cabled and wireless links, supports all exchange of data and control information)
An efficient and integrated mobility system: Secure transport
The prototype is successfully deployed.