Shoe-scanners could speed up airport security checks

Airline passengers could soon be able to pass through security scanners without removing their shoes, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

It has awarded £1.8 million of funding to eight projects developing more efficient screening technology.

Functioning prototypes which could be trialled at airports are to be developed over the next 12 months.

One of the recipients of the funding is Derbyshire-based Security Screening Technologies, which is working on a step-on shoe-scanner.

The machine will create high-contrast images to be analysed by computers taught to recognise explosives and other threats.

Any shoes flagged up for concerns could then undergo a secondary check.

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The DfT said the project could mean passengers keeping their shoes on when going through the first scan, leading to reduced queuing times and a more comfortable experience.

British-born "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid was caught trying to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001, after hiding a device in his shoe.

The bomb failed to detonate and Reid was overpowered by other passengers.

The funding is part of a joint five-year programme by the DfT and Home Office.

Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: "This latest £1.8 million of funding invests in innovative projects that will ensure we are continuing to capitalise on pioneering research.

"The aim is to have a safer and smoother travel experience for air passengers.

"The safety of people travelling on all modes of transport is our top priority and the Future Aviation Security Solutions programme is just one example of the huge importance we place on the security of passengers."

Another recipient of the funding is Welsh firm Sequestim, which has designed an alternative walk-through screening system.

It features a highly-sensitive camera to measure the natural radiation from passengers and create an image to reveal the presence of anything dangerous they may be carrying.

This would reduce the risk of false alarms and enable passengers to keep their coats on, according to the DfT.

Security Minister Ben Wallace said: "We are determined to harness the power of innovation and this ambitious programme will help us continue to use the best technologies as part of our aviation security."