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October 2006 edition

Scientists work to 'invent' hijack-proof aircraft

By Rod Smith

Scientists believe they can invent an aircraft that cannot be hijacked – or at least makes terrorist activity so difficult it won't take place.

More than 100 aviation security and operational experts are developing a futuristic on board aircraft threat detection system. They include scientists at BAE Systems' Advanced Technology Centre in Filton, Bristol, U.K.

The project's goals include the creation of a "non-hijackable" aircraft to restore full confidence in the air transport industry and to ensure a fully secure flight from departure to destination.

The four-year €35.8 million project, called SAFEE or Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment is jointly funded by the European Commission and the industrial partners involved (€19.5 million). Preliminary tests on the SAFEE systems have started now and will continue through 2007 using simulator tools at Toulouse, Hamburg and Amsterdam.

Daniel Gaultier, SAFEE co-ordinator, SAGEM Défense Sécurité says: "You never reach zero level of threat, no risk. But if you equip planes with on-board electronics, it will make them very difficult to hijack."

BAE Systems is focusing on an Onboard Threat Detection System (OTDS) in the aircraft cabin, which will process information from video and audio sensors to detect erratic passenger behaviour. As part of this work, simulations of terrorist scenarios such as Flight 11 (one of the flights on 9/11) have been filmed using actors on-board aircraft in Filton.


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