China Plans to Equip Airports with AI Body Scanners Developed by Weapons Lab

China’s Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation weapons laboratory has unveiled an AI-powered body scanner.
Loukia Papadopoulos

China will now be equipping its airports with AI-powered body scanners, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Thursday. The scanners are developed by a research institute under the supervision of China’s Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

Efficient body scanners

The institute, a state-run weapons laboratory, is involved in the production of AI-powered missiles. According to a story by state news agency Xinhua released last week, the new body scanners provided by the lab will be able to detect up to 89 banned items within 0.7 seconds.

The scanner operates by bouncing electromagnetic waves off the scanned passengers which generate an image that pinpoints the locations of suspicious material. The system also applies privacy protection measures by pixelating passenger’s faces and private areas.

Currently, the scanner has an accuracy rate of 95% and uses AI to continuously update its contraband database. The system is being trialed at airports in Beijing and Urumqi.

Thus far, body inspections in China have mostly been handled inefficiently with labor-intensive portable scanners or with X-ray scanners that have generated radiation concerns. China’s new unmanned AI body scanners are estimated to produce a radiation of one-thousandth that of a cellular phone.


CASIC, founded in 1956 and based in Beijing, is primarily dedicated to the design and development of smart missile weapons. However, the agency is also involved in a myriad of other industries including military, aerospace, communications, automotive, medical and finance.

Some of CASIC’s products include, but are not limited to, solid rockets and space products, unmanned ships and near spacecraft, satellite communication stations, oil tankers, ball-carrying vehicles, aircraft gas refuellers, industrial liquid waste automated processing systems as well as anesthetic machines and respirators. The agency made news headlines this week with its plans to develop a Long March launch vehicle to be trialed as early as 2020.

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Part of China's AI plans

When it comes to AI-related developments, China has a government policy in place to make the country the world’s dominant player in the technology in just 12 years. A proposal was released by the State Council in July of 2017 with a three-part approach.

The first step is simply to keep up with AI advancements by 2020, the second to make significant breakthroughs in the field by 2025, and finally to become the global AI leader by 2030. This month saw China release its first AI textbook for high school students just six months after China’s State Council pushed for the inclusion of AI courses in primary and secondary grades.

The push is part of the country’s plans to generate enough talent for its current and future AI-related goals. Currently, both China and the world are seeing a gap in AI talent that has created a global AI talent war and exorbitant salaries for AI experts. 

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