Technology

Super-sensitive scanners developed to spot migrants in fast-moving trucks

Space technology originally designed to detect astronomical activity in deep space has been redeveloped for seeing through vehicles.

Super-sensitive security scanners have been developed to spot migrants hiding inside freight trucks, which could help border forces dealing with people smuggling, terrorism and organised crime.

The camera is able to detect people and even firearms in vehicles travelling at speeds of up to 100mph, scientists behind the project say.

It uses space technology originally designed to detect astronomical activity in deep space, capable of seeing a 100W light bulb at a distance of 500,000 miles – twice the distance to the moon.

High-precision scanners are able to create an image based on human body heat in real time.

Security scanner
Scanner can see a man in a truck with a gun on his belt (Sequestim/Cardiff University/PA)

Cardiff University and Sequestim, who are working on the system together, believe its invention could be game-changing for border forces and quicker than existing checking processes, which can result in long queues.

“For truck scanning, this reveals people even if they are hiding inside a packing crate,” said Dr Sam Rowe, one of the inventors from Cardiff University.

“We can even detect the shadow of concealed weapons hidden beneath the clothes of people inside trucks.”

The hardware is small enough to be concealed in a trailer or van, scanning vehicles at up to 30 times faster than existing methods, researchers say.

Scientists trialled the technology at Cardiff Airport in December, as a security scanner to find any threatening objects being carried by passengers.

“The camera detects millimetre-waves, which are just like visible light but at a wavelength more than one thousand times longer,” said Ken Wood, sales and marketing director of Sequestim.

“Any items concealed beneath clothing show up very clearly as a shadow because the human body, by dint of its heat, acts like a light bulb at these wavelengths.

“Unlike the scanners currently in use, our system only needs a few seconds to do its work.

“We plan to make the world a safer place, but we will also make the security processes quicker and less of an imposition.”

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