Airport Security Mice Detect Explosives

Practical Aviation Security: Predicting and Preventing Future Threats (Butterworth-Heinemann Homeland Security)
Airport sniffer mice are being used in a new security device created by an Israeli firm and demonstrated in public trials during the last few weeks.

Assembled by a firm called BioExplorers, the new airport security detector houses mice that are trained to pick out the smell of explosives and other potentially hostile threats to airport security.

According to information published on the BioExplorers website, mice can recall huge numbers of different smells, and they’re able to tell them apart. They have well over 1,000 olfactory receptors genes – close to 50 per cent more than dogs have.

Airport Security Mice

BioExplorers believes the mouse detector can outperform other types of airport security including millimetre wave scanners, sniffer dogs and frisking techniques. And it’s possible that airport authorities might consider introducing airport security mice in response to passengers’ concerns over the full body image scannersnow in use at airports in the US and beyond.

The device resembles a full-body scanner, but features a trio of trays, each housing mice that effectively work for four hours at a time. They’re fed air in sequence, giving two of the mouse trays a rest while the other’s at work. When that air contains traces of explosives, the mice move to another part of the detector, but they remain concealed from passengers at all times.

“It is as if they are smelling a cat and escaping”, BioExplorers’ Eran Lumbroso explained, adding: “We detect the escape.”

Mouse Explosive Detection

The security mouse explosive detection technology was trialled in Israel at the end of 2010. Over 1,000 participants were involved, of which 22 were rigged up with dummy explosive devices, and these were all identified by the mice without exception.

BioExplorers believe applications for their technology exist beyond airports: public transport sites, border security operations and public events could all benefit from it, they say.

However, there are reportedly downsides to this new invention. For example, mice don’t live for that long and, so, a fleet of them would need to be maintained and job-trained, ready to take over from other examples when needed.