Imagine if going through airport security was just a matter of walking past a stretch of wall. No pat-downs, no X-rays, no metal detectors, and no need to remove any clothing. The harsh reality of today’s air travel is at strong odds with such a fantasy, but a new type of body scanner bears the promise to make every frequent traveler’s dream come true. It’s called “Alfa3” and it’s based on the established technology of “millimeter wave imaging,” which is used in hundreds of scanners currently deployed in airports the world over. But unlike those, Alfa3 does not require you to enter a chamber, raise your arms and stand still while the machine analyzes your body: it is able, instead, to do its job as you simply walk by.
Current systems return a detailed image of the person being scanned — passengers can in fact opt out and receive a pat-down instead — but Alfa3 uses a passive technology that can detect objects underneath clothing without revealing any anatomical details. And compared to standard metal detectors, it has the ability to spot non-metallic objects as well, such as liquids and gels.
One of the problems with current scanners using the same technology is the high rate of false positives, sometimes greater than 50 percent. The Alfa3 uses a significantly higher resolution that promises excellent accuracy and automatic detection of threats, according to its inventor. Further advantages include the possibility to deploy the system outdoors and in a covert manner, which would make it an interesting option for military installations.