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Hi-tech Hand-luggage Scanner Gives Biosecurity A Huge Boost At Auckland Airport

A new hi-tech baggage scanner at Auckland Airport will provide another crucial layer of protection against invasive pests and diseases, says Biosecurity New Zealand.

The computer tomography (CT) scanner made its first detection earlier this month – two bananas in a small carry-on bag arriving with a New Zealand family from Dubai.

Biosecurity New Zealand has been trialling the technology with selected flights since late October. Arriving passengers have their hand baggage scanned before they collect checked-in items from the airport carousels.

“We’re deliberately targeting baggage that travellers carry off the plane. It’s where we’re most likely to find food that could host fruit fly and other pests,” says Brett Hickman, Border Technology Manager, Biosecurity New Zealand.

Biosecurity is crucially important to New Zealand, says Mr Hickman, as an unwanted pest or disease could devastate New Zealand’s primary sector economy or its natural environment.

He says the new scanner provides three-dimensional images that are much clearer than traditional x-ray images.

“The 3D images make it easier to pinpoint items of biosecurity concern.”

Mr Hickman says the technology screens baggage faster than x-ray. It also has potential to automatically detect risk items arriving with international passengers and mail.

“We’re working closely with Australia authorities and the manufacturer to develop software that will make this a reality.

“We have already started developing algorithms that can find fruit, meat and seafood, and prospects are looking good for detecting seeds.”

Biosecurity New Zealand now has two CT scanners at Auckland Airport. Officers have been trialling a larger unit since late 2018 to scan suitcases and other checked-in baggage.

“We plan to use the technology to screen baggage before arriving travellers pick up their belongings from the airline – similar to how security screening operates at many international airports,” says Mr Hickman.

“The screening information will be electronically directed to officers, putting them in a better position to evaluate risk when they interact with travellers”.

VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJJEesgo32s - The 920 CT scanner at Auckland Airport, including the image of the banana detection

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