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Heathrow Airport Takes Automatic Narcotics Detection Technology

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Morpho Detection
: 25 March, 2010  (Application Story)
The XRD 3500 automatic detection system for narcotics from Morpho Detection is being deployed at London’s Heathrow Airport for automatically scanning baggage arriving from high risk countries
Morpho Detection has announced the deployment of the world’s first automatic narcotics detection system, the XRD 3500, at London’s Heathrow Airport. Deployed in Germany for automatic detection of explosives in baggage, Morpho Detection has partnered with the UK Border Agency to program the machine for Class A narcotics detection.

Select baggage arriving in the UK from high-risk narcotics producing and trafficking countries is put through the XRD 3500 system, which can pinpoint the exact location of potential narcotics without opening bags or disturbing contents. The only baggage-screening system with the technology to find drugs in bags automatically, the XRD 3500 reduces the need for canine and hand searches. Previously, each suspect piece of luggage was manually inspected, taking as much as 30 minutes per bag.

“The XRD 3500 system improves our capabilities to fight narcotics entering the UK,” said Richard Tomsett, manager, Emerging Technologies Team, UK Border Agency. “Reducing the time it takes to inspect each piece of luggage has allowed us to deploy our resources more broadly, expanding the number of bags we are able to search.”

“As movement between countries becomes easier, the risk for narcotics smuggling increases,” Tomsett said. “Working with Morpho Detection to develop detection technologies allows us to constantly refine our methods and stay one step ahead.”

“The XRD 3500 represents a major upgrade to previous baggage-screening solutions,” said Dennis Cooke, president and CEO, Morpho Detection. “The use of X-ray Diffraction technology gives airports a solution to automatically find drugs in bags. This reflects Morpho Detection’s commitment to solutions that solve customers’ real-world problems.”

First deployed at Heathrow in February 2009, the XRD 3500 system can distinguish drugs and explosives from innocuous materials in luggage. At Heathrow, the first airport to use the XRD technology strictly to combat narcotics smuggling, reduced inspection times have allowed the airport to expand its operation and inspect more luggage with fewer personnel.

XRD technology identifies materials based on their molecular composition, not densities or other less distinctive characteristics, and can reliably identify threat substances in many forms – including powders, solids and liquids – where other technologies cannot.
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