Monday, August 28, 2006

"SECURITY: CT scanner to screen carry-on luggage in '07"

Since the British police foiled the plot to smuggle liquid explosives onto U.S.-bound commercial aircraft in carry-on baggage, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been scrambling to develop technologies that could spot such items. Luckily, the best bet for identifying liquid explosives, according to its developer, is already in beta testing at Boston's Logan International Airport. Dubbed Cobra by developer Analogic Corp. (Peabody, Mass.), the scanner can detect objects of any shape that are massive enough to be a threat — including liquid explosives. If it passes certification by the TSA, Cobra could be deployed in airports nationwide by mid-2007. Both Cobra and a larger version called Exact, which has already been installed in more than half of the major airports in the United States, draw on Analogic's expertise in making medical scanners. By the late 1990s, Analogic was already adapting what was then called the "CAT" scanner--today called computed tomography (CT)--for use by airport security. After Sept. 11, the TSA mandated that all checked baggage be scanned, and Analogic's Exact was available to meet the need. The company quickly sold 525 Exact scanners, for sales of $525 million. The system, standing more than 7 feet tall and weighing 6,700 pounds, screens checked baggage automatically in an airport's private back room, diverting any suspicious bags to a side conveyer, where they are hand-checked with trace detectors. Cobra scales down Exact to a size and cost that makes it economical for use in screening carry-on bags.