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Bomb detector on the move

The new looker in the city police stable not only costs a bomb, but also detects one. She drew a lot of attention when she was rolled out on to the streets on Sunday — it was the Rs 7-crore Mobile X-Ray Scanner’s maiden assignment.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2009 01:15 IST
Debasish Panigrahi

The new looker in the city police stable not only costs a bomb, but also detects one.

She drew a lot of attention when she was rolled out on to the streets on Sunday — it was the Rs 7-crore Mobile X-Ray Scanner’s maiden assignment.

The latest acquisition of the police in their fight against terrorism was pressed into service for the first time during Bharatiya Janata Party president L.K. Advani’s election rally at Shivaji Park.

As the scanner, mounted on a Mercedes Benz ‘Sprinter’ truck, arrived at Gadkari Chowk, hundreds of onlookers, who had come to attend the rally, surrounded it.

Officials from the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS), who accompanied the scanner, had a tough time navigating the vehicle out of the crowd.

A senior BDDS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for lack of authorisation to interact with the media, said the scanner was US-made.

He said the scanner can detect anything from narcotics and alcohol to weapons and explosives, including a “dirty bomb”, hidden in a moving or stationary vehicle.

“It can detect even illegal immigrants,” the officer said.

He said the scanning is done by radioactive rays emitted by the machine and that the scanning radius is eight to 10 metres.

“The images are deciphered by an array of scanners attached to a computer or laptop in the driver's cabin,” the officer said.

“The computer operator, a policeman in this case, is specially trained to read the results and reach a conclusion about any contraband.”

The officer said a message about the suspicious vehicle would then be passed on to the control room, enabling the police to intercept the vehicle at the earliest.

The official said though it could exceed 10 kilometres per hour, the vehicle usually moved at the speed of between a kilometre and 1.5 kilometre per hour when on duty.

It can detect any contraband in a vehicle passing at even 100 kilometres per hour.

“The rays emitted by the machine are less harmful than even the sun’s rays,” Senior Inspector S.M. Anthony of the BDDS said.