Aircraft manufacturing giant Airbus plans to deploy a "jellyfish-like" device built by a Silicon Valley neurotech startup called Koniku Inc. that uses living biological cells to sniff out dangerous chemicals and bombs at the airport — the "electronic noses" might even be able to detect contagious viruses such as COVID-19 too, Financial Times first reported.
The futuristic technology combines living cells with microprocessors to sniff out explosives. Koniku Inc. developed the revolutionary sensors that can be stick to surfaces both in airport terminals and aircraft.
Device "breathes" the air in
Koniku Inc. founder Oshiorenoya Agabi told the Financial Times, "We have developed a technology that is able to detect smell — it's breathing the air, and it's essentially telling you what's in the air. What we do is we take biological cells, either Hek cells or astrocytes — brain cells — and we genetically modify them to have olfactory receptors."
An Airbus rendition shows the devices can be placed on overhead bins at the front of the aircraft for increased detection.
Testings start by the end of 2020
Multiple odor-detection sensors will be placed in select airport screening tunnels later this year and the two companies will begin live testing at airports towards the end of 2020. These sensors are currently in their prototype stage.
The announcement comes amid the pandemic that has wreaked havoc on aviation, and airlines have been testing ways of restoring confidence to travelers ever since. The evolution of the "electronic nose" might get customers back in the air again.
This is such a revolutionary development since odor detection plays a crucial role in aviation security which currently specially-trained dogs sniffing out luggage and passengers. What will dogs do when their jobs are taken away by the robots is the question that needs to be answered right now. Hopefully, those smart fellows will find new homes.