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Security

DEXTER aims to augment security in public areas

26 April 2019
Standoff detection in crowds has been a topic of research for many years in the NATO Science for Peace and Security programme. Source: Getty Images

A NATO research programme seeks to develop and demonstrate viable standoff explosives detection that can be applied at airports and other transport facilities

NATO appears ready to realise its long-standing objective to develop reliable, automatic, and discreet standoff detection of explosives and other threats in high-density public spaces such as airport terminals, with the imminent launch of a new consortium of projects.

The results of this collective effort will be demonstrated at a high-density traffic public transport site, under normal operational conditions, in 2021.

If successful, the technology would have several uses at locations where security is paramount, according to the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) programme, which is sponsoring the research along with national governments, research institutes, and private entities.

“The applications would be wide-ranging,” an SPS official told Jane’s on 21 March. “We’re talking about railway stations, airports, harbours and ferries, military bases, critical infrastructure, entrances to stadiums, and so on. Each nation has its own idea where to put it.”

After years of stop-and-go research, SPS plans to sign off in late April on a consortium that will bring together three new research projects under a single legal structure. A consortium known as DEXTER (detection of explosives and firearms to counter terrorism) will be launched in The Hague at the headquarters of TNO, the Dutch national research institute and one of the consortium participants.

Research build-up

NATO wants the three projects to work closely together to develop an end-to-end system that automatically detects and alerts threats in areas with high-density or fast-moving volumes of people.

Stand-off explosives detection has been an SPS counter-terrorism goal for years but previous research on the subject has been either preliminary in nature, limited in scope, or constrained by geopolitical challenges.

The first foray into the sector, which was launched in 2009, was the four-year STANDEX project to use microwave scanning and spectroscopy to detect concealed explosives.

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