Morpho Detection Help London Airport Fight Drug Smuggling

Morpho Detection, part of Safran group's security business, announced the deployment of the automatic narcotics detection system at London's Heathrow Airport. Deployed in Germany for automatic detection of explosives in baggage, Morpho has partnered with the UK Border Agency to program the machine for Class A narcotics detection.

Select baggage arriving in the U.K. from high-risk narcotics producing and trafficking countries is put through the 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, this 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 system improves our capabilities to fight narcotics entering the U.K.," said Richard Tomsett, Manager, Emerging Technologies Team, U.K. 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 to develop detection technologies allows us to constantly refine our methods and stay one step ahead.”

First deployed at Heathrow in February 2009, the system can distinguish drugs and explosives from innocuous materials in luggage. At Heathrow, the first airport to use the XRD technology 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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