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Multiple 2D X-ray technique could improve baggage screening efficiency

06 December 2012

UCL researchers are using proprietary technology to help design a more cost effective alternative to CT scanning for airport checked baggage inspection and screening.

3DX-RAY and University College London (UCL) have collaborated to deliver a proof-of-principle system for a project funded under the Innovative Research Call in Explosives and Weapons Detection (2007) programme. It is hoped the system could provide a low cost alternative to CT scanning to replace 2D X-ray inspection as the first line of defence in checked baggage screening.

The UCL team, headed up by Prof Robert Speller, turned to 3DX-RAY after successfully completing a feasibility study into alternative methods of producing 3D tomographic images for baggage inspection. 3DX-RAY provided the hardware and systems expertise to integrate the UCL team’s new tomographic imaging software to produce the proof-of-principle system.

Checked baggage inspection is a multi-layered process designed to weed out false-alarms from genuine threats through a series of timely and complex inspections. The first line of defence is to deploy 2D X-rays but this technique results in high false alarm rates. While CT scanning X-ray techniques are more accurate, they are also costly and slow. UCL believes it has identified a more accurate and effective system that will lower the volume of bags that have to go for additional screening.

The research team realised they could achieve the same effect as CT scanning X-ray techniques by collecting images from multiple angles using 2D X-ray sources and detectors with an overhead visual camera and using intelligent algorithms to collate these X-ray ‘slices’ and produce 3D images. These highly accurate images will not only allow operators to be able to see the shape of objects but also to determine what materials they are made of.

3DX-RAYS’s, chief technology officer, Nick Fox believes the project will prove a huge leap forward in terms of baggage scanning because it provides a viable low cost alternative to CT-scanning that could be rolled out across airports very easily. "Although this technology is still some way from full commercialisation it is a fantastic project to be involved with," he adds.

Project manager, Dr Elena Vescovo  said 3DX-RAY's expertise in X-ray imaging is second to none, and she looks forward to taking the project to the next stage, producing a full prototype system and working on real world testing.

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