Israeli-U.S. companies developing next-generation airline security system

Safeguards under the BVR Systems-Veritouch Ltd security package begin at airport check-in and continue throughout the flight.Israel-based BVR Systems is joining U.S.-based Veritouch Ltd to produce a new airline security package that will help close the loopholes in present systems …

Safeguards under the BVR Systems-Veritouch Ltd security package begin at airport check-in and continue throughout the flight.Israel-based BVR Systems is joining U.S.-based Veritouch Ltd to produce a new airline security package that will help close the loopholes in present systems that rely on antiquated x-ray technology and human judgment to prevent hijackers from taking control of planes.

The system will stop potential hijackers in their tracks through a gauntlet of technologically advanced barriers and safeguards, according to the companies.

The process will begin at airport check-in counters where passengers will be screened using biometric iris and fingerprint scanners developed by Veritouch, which read eye and fingerprint patterns and compare them with the unique patterns of terrorism suspects. The patterns are stored in a database provided by law enforcement agencies worldwide. Pilots, flight attendants and plane crews are verified behind the scenes using the same methods.

The biometrics-based safeguards don’t stop at the boarding gate. New reinforced cockpit doors will be installed on all airlines, according to new Federal Aviation Agency directives, as part of the program and there will be another iris and fingerprint scanning system to allow only pilots and authorized crew members access. An additional iris scanner will periodically read the irises of the occupants of the pilot’s and copilot’s seats to verify that the people in the seats are authorized to fly the plane.

BVR is contributing key defense-related technology as well as its expertise in developing military scenarios to the alliance, while Veritouch is providing the biometrics technology.

While the plane is in the air, BVR’s data terrain technology can use information on passengers to alert the cockpit and people on the ground of possible terrorist activity within the plane. The system generates a computerized model of the airplane’s interior, including a model of the flight’s seating manifest, using image data transmitted from an internal video camera. The computer sounds a warning if there are abnormal changes in the pattern that might signify a hijacking, such as herding passengers in one direction or another or unauthorized movements of passengers towards the cockpit.

The technology for the system came from the development of fighter jet flight trainers, BVR’s core business. The 3-D modeling system that monitors the plane’s interior is used in simulators to mimic the terrain the pilot-in-training is “passing over.”

The system will also transmit video pictures of the cockpit to crews on the ground while the plane is in flight so they have another means of telling if the plane has been hijacked or anything else abnormal is occurring.

In addition, BVR’s technology will allow people on the ground to communicate with an on-plane computer that will indicate if the plane is off course and provide an additional early warning of a possible hijacking. The technology was borrowed from a system used to monitor the location of military aircraft.

The companies have developed a prototype and hope to make the system fully operational by the end of 2002. BVR and Veritouch are marketing the system to airlines as well as to airports and other aviation security developers.