Federal officials look to Mission Valley company to help in improving bomb detection at airports

SAN DIEGO - In the wake of a stunning report on airport security lapses, Homeland Security officials are eyeing a San Diego-area startup to improve on bomb detection.

On Monday, ABC News first reported that TSA screeners missed 95 percent of the fake bombs and weapons that a DHS testing team tried to sneak through the system.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is demanding immediate changes, insisting that all TSA officers and supervisors be re-trained. Johnson also wants all detection machines tested.

Meanwhile, the DHS just bought two dozen machines from Mission Valley-based One Resonance Sensors. The Mobilab ES can detect explosives on cellphones, tablets and small laptops in about 10 seconds.

In a demonstration for 10News by CEO Pablo Prado, a tablet or cellphone was placed in the drawer of the device, which resembles a copier.

Radio frequency waves scanned the device and about 10 seconds later it came back "clear."

Prado then put it in a gel, a non-explosive material with a chemical makeup similar to explosives. This time, a red "alarm" icon appeared, along with beeping noises.

Last summer, the alarm went off on electronic devices and possible ties to terrorism and the TSA enacted measures, like requiring some to turn on their devices.

Another tactic of swabbing hands for bomb materials was put into place, but those measures can be time consuming. Prado said his scanner can shorten those delays and make detection more effective.

"It would be very hard to fool this technology," said Prado. "There may be some gaps in current technologies we can help with."

Prado said because his scanner scours every inch of a device, it has yet to fail in any tests. The TSA should complete the tests by July. Each device costs between $45,000 and $50,000.

The company is currently working on a scanner that can scan laptops and other larger electronics.

Print this article Back to Top