A European Union project is trying to develop cameras and microphones to monitor passengers on airplanes and bomb sniffing equipment to detect explosive materials in lavatories.
Brussels is funding research at Reading University aimed at detecting suspicious behaviour on board aircraft.
A combination of cameras, microphones, explosive sniffers and a sophisticated computer system would give a pilot early warning of any danger. But the work will alarm civil liberties campaigners who fear the growth of the surveillance state.
Microphones would eavesdrop, listening out for anything which could suggest terrorist behaviour. Inside the lavatories explosives sniffers would detect if a bomb was being assembled.
All this information would be analysed by computer and if it spotted something untoward, the flight deck would be told instantly.
The key to the work is developing software which can spot a genuine threat. “We want to avoid saying that nervous passengers are potential terrorists,” Mr Ferryman said
If computers and software are flagging suspicious behavior, you’ll have both false negatives (so won’t help detect terrorists) and many false positives (distracting the flight deck and impeding safety).
We supposely have no fly lists to keep terrorists off planes, and behavior detection at airports. But we acknowledge those don’t work and somehow think computer behavior detection and scanning key words in conversations onboard is going to work better, instead it’s something other than flying the aircraft that we’ll be asking pilots to do. That won’t make us safer.