Hijack-proof airplanes soon
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Hijack-proof airplanes soon

Work is underway on a new tech to land planes by remote control if terrorists threaten or kill pilot, writes Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Sep 11, 2006 20:45 IST
Vijay Dutt

A team of researchers are developing an anti-hijack technology that will enable planes to steer themselves away from tall buildings and even land by remote control if terrorists threaten or kill the pilot.

Microphones will eavesdrop on passengers’ conversations while computerized CCTV will detect suspicious movements so that hijackers can be caught before they go into action.

The September 11, 2001, attacks in the US triggered the development of this technology by a consortium including BAE Systems, Airbus and the European commission. It is estimated to cost £22 million (Rs 1.9 billion) to develop.

The anti-hijack system’s first “components” are likely to be made available by 2008. The complete system will take a few years more to be installed.

The first tests were carried out last month using actors in planes on the ground in Bristol and Hamburg.

In addition to being strengthened, the cockpit doors are likely to be controlled using biometric technology — which scans irises and fingerprints — so only authorised crew can gain access.

There will also be biometric sensors fitted to cockpit instruments so that if — as in the 9/11 attacks — a terrorist kills the pilot, the plane’s controls can be overridden.

A computer would then prevent the plane being taken off its pre-determined course and allow ground controllers, by remote control, to land the aircraft safely at a nearby airport.

As a last resort — for example if the terrorist holds a gun to the pilot’s head and tries to force him to fly into a building — an emergency avoidance system is being designed that would be able to judge whether the plane was being steered towards a target and would override the pilot and direct it away towards clear sky.

First Published: Sep 11, 2006 02:15 IST