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Full Body Scanners ? How do they work?

2017-12-01 13:20  
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The new full body security scanners might become a popular alternative to body searches with the increased alleged terror threats over the globe. The full body scanning system has taken the world with a surprise in the past recent months. It is the most advanced system of the whole-body imaging technology that involves scanning of the whole body through clothing revealing both metallic and non-metallic hidden objects, including weapons or plastic explosives.

The U.S. Transportation Security Agency (TSA) had already tried this concept of whole-body imaging at six airports in mid 2009 to look for threats that normal metal detectors could not find. The process to install these scanners at more airports in several of the U.S. cities is already heading rapidly, with the recent alleged unsuccessful terrorist attempt on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit. To combat this threatening problem and for the security of the people, the TSA has worked with two basic technologies to upgrade its passenger screening systems- the Millimeter-wave and the Backscatter X-ray.

The Full body scanners are actually the large machines placed alongside the metal detectors and the baggage X-ray machines at the security point on your way into the departure lounge. Though full body scanners use different systems, but the two competing technologies viz. millimeter-wave and backscatter X-ray are the major components that use radiation of a non-harmful kind and still penetrates into your clothing.

The ‘Backscatter’ body scanners use low-level X-rays which produce a two-dimensional image of the body and detects those components that are bounced back (“backscattered” scientifically) from your body, or displays objects on your body towards the machine. These scanners are very efficient at imaging organic material and pick up the scatter patterns of drugs or explosives, etc, and create image thus detecting the concealed packets like drugs, liquid bombs, or ceramic knives which could have otherwise passed undetected through metal detectors. This ability along with the “Flying Spot” technology (which makes the machine locate a particular X-ray beam location at any given point of time), allows backscatter images to be incredibly accurate.

In the ‘Millimeter-wave’ (MMW) technology, the similar concept of backscatter is used, but this calls for detailed “radar” images and bouncing the radio-frequency waves off people to construct a 3-dimensional image of their bodies on computer, within a few seconds, detecting the presence of foreign or concealed objects on a body.

The technologies do not pose any health risk as well, as the millimeter wave energy is already common in the world and the scanners produce minimum radiation, creating a lesser energy than a cell phone.

The backscatter and the millimeter-wave intentionally scan blur facial features, and the security official viewing images would not be able to recognize or identify the passenger being scanned, and the systems have “zero storage capability” as they delete the scanned images after the viewings. The full-body images are viewed in a walled-off location which is not visible to public or the security officer assisting the passenger, and the officer viewing the image could not see the passenger. With its efficiency in scanning images in not more than 15 seconds of time, these scanners still make the process a bit slower compared to the time taken by metal detectors. But with its accuracy in detecting some of the most harmful hidden weapons, the full-body imaging concept is sure to rise more, providing a better option for security checks.

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