Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport has once again started trial of full-body scanners, after airports across the country missed the March 2022 deadline for deploying them, reports Jagriti Chandra for The Hindu.
Full-body scanners can detect non-metal objects, which are hard to detect with the conventional door frame metal detector.
Delhi International Airport Limited, which runs IGI Airport, said on Tuesday that it had installed a full-body scanner at the security check area at terminal 2, and the trials would be conducted on a real-time basis, i.e. passengers would have to pass through it during security check before moving to the security hold area.
In April 2019, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security made it mandatory for 84 airports — 26 hyper-sensitive and 58 sensitive airports — to deploy body scanners within a year. This deadline was later extended to March 2022 in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and also because airports were reluctant to pay for a costly technology.
The remaining airports in the country have until December 2022 to implement the technology. It is learnt that while airports have sought another extension, the BCAS has put its foot down. “We have already given airports two years. Our deadline was flouted on the ground that it was a costly technology, and then there was COVID-19. We have now told airports that they have to implement our directive,” Joint Director General of BCAS, Jaideep Prasad, told The Hindu.
In 2016 and 2017, several rounds of trials were conducted at the Delhi airport for the BCAS, following which the aviation security regulator recommended millimetre-wave technologies instead of back-scatter and full transmission X-ray technologies. This was after consulting the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which had expressed concerns about frequent exposure of passengers to X-ray radiation. This technology also addresses privacy concerns raised by passengers during trials, as it produces a silhouette or a mannequin-like image instead of a naked image. There are several reasons why airports have delayed buying body scanners. “The technical specifications required by BCAS expect the scanners to detect any restricted article, but trials of German company Rohde and Schwarz, as well as L3 Harris Technologies (whose biometric security detection and automation portfolio has now been bought over by Leidos) have failed to meet these requirements,” explained one airport official.
The person added that airports were also worried about the impact on passenger throughput, or passenger flow, and the unlikely impact of this costly technology (each scanner costs INR 4 crore -INR 5 crore) in reducing deployment of manpower. “Passengers will be required to divest themselves of many items before passing through the body scanners, which will consume time. Then the scanner will generate several alarms and you will need security personnel to identify their cause,” the official said.
The Airports Authority of India had to also withdraw its tender for 198 body scanners floated in 2019 after it had decided to buy these equipment from Chinese company Nuctech because an advisory from the government barred purchases from bordering countries following a standoff at LAC.