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An innovative solution for aircraft and airport security operations might replace bomb-sniffing dogs. The “electronic nose” device that uses biological cells to sniff dangerous chemicals and bombs will be tested in several airport screening tunnels later in 2020. The technology was co-developed by Airbus and the neurotech startup Koniku.

The jellyfish-shaped sensors based on the use of silicon processors bolstered by living cells are currently in their prototype stage.

Based on the power of odor detection and quantification found in nature, the technical solution, developed to meet the rigorous operational regulatory requirements of aircraft and airport security operations, uses genetically engineered odorant receptors that produce an alarm signal when they come into contact with the molecular compounds of the hazard or threat that they have been programmed to detect.  

According to defenseworld.net, the companies are also exploring the sensor’s detection capabilities to include “biological hazards” so it could detect people with contagious viruses such as the novel coronavirus. This is unlikely to be ready before a vaccine is developed.

That idea is based on how certain diseases emit specific odors. If the molecular structures of those odors were to be mapped, machines could recognize their patterns.