Israeli company trains mice for airport security

An Israeli company is promoting explosive-sniffing mice as the next must-have for airport security, the Independent website reports.

Mice can detect explosives far more effectively than humans, dogs or machines and are easier to train, according to Yuval Amsterdam, CEO of X-Test, who addressed the Body Search 2015 conference in London last week.

“They’re cheap, and you don’t have to take them for a walk,” said Amsterdam, a former Israel Defense Forces bomb-disposal expert. “Once they are trained, they become bio-sensors.”

The intention is not that the little, furry creatures run loose over passengers and their bags, Amsterdam clarified. Instead, they will be contained in cages and discreetly positioned where they can sniff people and their possessions for the substances they have been trained to identify – and signal when they detect a threat.

Current aircraft security relies on metal detectors and X-ray screening for cabin baggage. Explosive trace tests, which are conducted on only a small number of passengers, involve swabbing a surface and testing the swab in an explosives trace detector.

Mice can produce much more reliable results and can be trained in large numbers by machine, Amsterdam said.

He also expects them to be able to identify individuals carrying explosives implanted within their bodies, which the industry regards as a key threat to aircraft.

Another advantage of using mice is that they can be used to detect substances other than explosives, which makes them ideal for combatting smuggling.

“We can teach them anything that has a scent – whether it’s explosives, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s ivory in Africa,” he said. “Anything that has a smell.”

Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, welcomed the innovation: “We do not currently have explosive detection capability in our portals, or an accepted way of detecting ‘internal carries’. The mice just might plug that security hole.”


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