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11/29/2010
08:41 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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5 Airport Body Scanner Patents Stripped Down

Here's a deep dive on five patents applying X-ray backscatter technology to airport contraband detection. These screening machines have been much in the news recently, amid controversy regarding both their effectiveness and the amount of radiation exposure to which travelers are subjected. The patents we'll look at are from prime players in the airport body scanner field. This list is led by Rapiscan Systems Inc. , of Torrance, Calif., which in 2009 won the TSA contract to supply whole-body imag




The first sheet from Rapiscan's patent 7,796,733, entitled "Personnel security screening system with enhanced privacy" is shown. According to the patent document, the invention "relates to image processing techniques that employ maximum threat detection performance and minimal information loss. More particularly, the invention relates to the field of radiant energy imaging systems and methods and to image processing techniques for detecting concealed objects carried on the body or clothing of a person without compromising the privacy of the person." A further explanation delves into how contraband can be detected by X-rays: "Non-metallic objects are commonly composed of low atomic number elements similar to those of human tissue, i.e. hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Soft human tissue scatters a significant amount of X-rays due to the relatively low atomic number of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen in relatively high concentration. Due to the high atomic number of calcium, bones near the surface of the body, comprised mainly of calcium, produce much less scatter. Concealed objects, especially metals, can be easily visualized in the images due to their significant difference in atomic composition from the background of human tissue."

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


Rapiscan patent 7,796,733, showing a series of X-ray images generated from complicated image processing methods. Note that, at higher privacy levels, while the general outline of the body and metal object still appear, details around the feet and fingers begin to disappear.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


General schematic diagram of the processing techniques employed in Rapiscan's patent 7,796,733, entitled "Personnel security screening system with enhanced privacy."

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


Schematic of the backscatter detection system employed in Rapiscan's patent 7,796,733, "Personnel security screening system with enhanced privacy."

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


Flow chart of the operational steps of the processing methods used in Rapiscan patent 7,796,733, "Personnel security screening system with enhanced privacy."

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


Illustrations of processed X-ray images at low, medium, and high settings, respectively, from Rapiscan patent 7,796,733.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


An alternate representation of processed X-ray images at low, medium, and high settings, respectively, from Rapiscan patent 7,796,733.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


Side view of the screening system, illustrating the position of a subject under inspection, from Rapiscan patent 7,826,589, "Security system for screening people."

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


A look at the setup for generating a vertical sweeping pencil beam of X-rays, from Rapiscan patent 7,826,589, "Security system for screening people."

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


Cover sheet from Martin Annis's patent 7,561,666, Personnel x-ray inspection system. Annis was an early inventor of X-ray body scanners , in the late 1970s.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


A simple view of a subject undergoing a backscatter X-ray inspection, from Annis's patent 7,561,666, Personnel x-ray inspection system.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


Top view of the components of the backscatter X-ray inspection, from Annis's patent 7,561,666, Personnel x-ray inspection system.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


Front view of the components of the backscatter X-ray inspection, from Annis's patent 7,561,666, Personnel x-ray inspection system.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'




Side view of the components of the backscatter X-ray inspection, from Annis's patent 7,561,666, Personnel x-ray inspection system.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


The purpose of patent 7,620,150, X-ray backscatter system for imaging at shallow depths, is to provide a system to examine the region below suspicious lesions on the surface of the skin.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


The purpose of patent 7,620,150, X-ray backscatter system for imaging at shallow depths, is to provide a system to examine the region below suspicious lesions on the surface of the skin.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


A sketch of a millimeter wave inspection system used in L-3 Communications' patent application 20100141502, Contraband Screening System With Enhanced Privacy.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


A top view of the inspection system when no contraband is present.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


An illustration of an operator display of L3's millimeter wave contraband screening system.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


The guts of the inspection portal, showing the inside walls of the millimeter wave contraband screening system.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'


A block diagram of a broad, integrated airport security system, of which the millimeter wave contraband screening unit would be one component.

For Further Reading

Wolfe's Den: Airport Scanner Patents Promise Not To Show Your 'Junk'

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