Although nobody likes getting a pat-down when going through airport security, the people administering those inspections probably aren't wild about it, either – if their touch is too soft they could miss a concealed object, yet if it's too hard they unnecessarily upset the recipient. With this in mind, an electronic pat-down-training mannequin is now being developed.

Ordinarily, security officers learn how to do pat-downs simply by training on other people in a classroom setting. The problem is, it's all very subjective – what bothers one person may not bother another.

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That's where PATT comes in. An acronym for Pat-down Accuracy Training Tool, the mannequin is being created in a collaboration between the US Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

It will incorporate two pressure-sensor-equipped models, one representing a male and one a female – the former will utilize about 1,900 embedded sensors, with the latter using around 2,000. In either case, a computer connected to the mannequin will provide trainees with objective feedback, showing them if they're applying the right amount of pressure, and if they've missed any areas.

"Training without feedback is akin to learning how to drive a car with no working gauges," says David Band, TSA technical monitor for the PATT project. "While an experienced driver could help give you some helpful guidance, a speedometer providing real-time feedback is a much better indication of how fast you are actually going. We anticipate that PATT will be able to vastly improve a TSA officer's ability to apply pressure within an ideal range, to cover all areas in their searches and to reduce the time needed for new officers to achieve a high level of proficiency."

Plans call for the technology to be trialled in pilot projects at the TSA Training Academy in Georgia, and at select airports such as Los Angeles International.

Source: Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate