The next time you go through security at Ben Gurion Airport, don’t be surprised if you get checked out by a tiny mouse. The Israeli security company, X-Test, has trained mice to respond when they detect explosives, alerting security officers at airport and mall security checkpoints.
X-Test vice-president Yuval Amsterdam, a former bomb-disposal expert for the Israel Defense Forces. addressed the Body Search 2015 conference in London last week. And said: “They’re as good as dogs as far as their ability to sense, but they’re smaller and easier to train. They’re cheap, and you don’t have to take them for a walk. Once they are trained, they become bio-sensors.”
According to the Amsterdam, the mice are expected to produce much more reliable results as they can be trained in large numbers by a machine.
The developers working on the project are hoping that the mice will not only be able to detect bombs implanted inside a body but also drugs, thereby combating smuggling.
“We can teach them anything that has a scent – whether it’s explosives, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s ivory in Africa. Anything that has a smell.” Amsterdam added.
The present system for an explosive trace test involves swabbing a surface such as a laptop keyboard or cabin-bag zip and testing the swab in an explosives trace detector. The mouse system does not involve allowing the mice to scamper over passengers and luggage. Instead, they will be contained in cages and discreetly positioned where they can sniff people and their possessions.
Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, had high hopes for the new system: “We do not currently have explosive detection capability in our portals, or an accepted way of detecting ‘internal carries’. The mice just might plug that security hole.”