AN AIRLINE passenger seat which could detect terrorists was being showcased this week by Farnborough-based science and technology firm Qinetiq at the Paris Air Show.
With airline security the most pressing issue currently facing the commercial aviation industry, some of the firm's most exciting developments involve making planes a safer form of travel.
Qinetiq's new ‘smart seat' could also detect whether an airline passenger is at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
If a person been asleep or sitting too long, a number of electrical sensors will send data to a computer display monitored by cabin crew.
The seat could also detect nervous passengers, helping crew to judge whether a passenger is a terrorist or potential air-rager.
A prototype of the seat has been created as part of a project to redesign planes to make them more comfortable for passengers and crew.
Qinetiq has also developed a runway debris monitoring system, which can pick out small objects on an airport runway from 300 metres.
The commercial version of the product will identify small debris from up to two kilometres away and could also track people or vehicles moving within restricted areas.
It currently takes up to 45 minutes to manually inspect a runway for debris but when used in small numbers, the low cost sensor unit will achieve 100% coverage of an airfield.
It can also operate in all weather conditions and can be used at night, when manual inspections are more difficult, with no loss of performance.
The tragic Concorde crash in Paris three years ago was blamed on runway debris.
Tim Floyd, sales manager at Qinetiq, added: "A small number of sensors, appropriately deployed, would not only monitor runways but also the apron, taxiways and airfield perimeter.
"This would significantly enhance debris detection rates, surface movement monitoring, airport security and so provide improved aviation safety."
Another potential use is checking for human and animal intruders.
At American airports hundreds of flights each year have to be aborted due to runway incursions and some airports around the world are subject to wildlife straying on to the runway.
The performance and safety of aircrew has also come under the spotlight. Qinetiq has carried out research, for the Civil Aviation Authority, into the sleep and fatigue of pilots.
A new computer programme will be able to predict levels of crew fatigue and evaluate rosters to highlight potential areas of concern.
"Although the UK has very strict limits on pilot hours, we believe that our programme will add a significant link to the safety regulation of pilot hours", said Qinetiq scientist Karen Robertson.
The week-long Paris Air Show, commemorating 100 years of aviation history, ends on Sunday.