Small Wars Journal

EU MESMERISE Workshop: Internal (Body Cavity) & External (Stand Off Frisk) Contraband & Weaponry Scanning - 11-12 July 2019 - Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 12:07am

EU MESMERISE Workshop: Internal (Body Cavity) & External (Stand Off Frisk) Contraband & Weaponry Scanning - 11-12 July 2019 - Alcalá de Henares, Spain

Robert J. Bunker

“MESMERISE is meant to fight criminals of the 21st century”

Paolo Salieri—DGHome European Commission

MESMERISE has huge potential to improve security at airports”

Daniel Jiménez Durán—Guardia Civil

MESMERISE is a step change; the first time the customs community has research funding to identify contraband inside the body.”

Trevor Francis—Home Office



The concluding workshop of the EU funded MESMERISE project was conducted at the Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Alcalá, Alcalá de Henares, Spain on 11-12 July 2019. The three year MESMERISE project began on 1 May 2016 and will conclude on 31 July 2019. Earlier meetings for this project took place in May and December of 2016 and in November 2017 at various venues. The project is coordinated by the Universidad de Alcalá in cooperation with the following project partners: Multix; Detection Technology (France), ADANI Technologies EU (Belarus & UK), CEA Leti (France), CIEMAT (France), Home Office (UK), Guardia Civil (Spain), Universitatea “Dunărea de Jos” din Galați (Romania), BPE (Germany), San Jorge Technológicas (Spain), Saint George Tech Ltd (UK) and Oslo Customs (Norway). The overall budget for the project (Grant agreement ID: 700399) is € 4 999 792,50. The objective of the project is as follows:

MESMERISE will develop and test a high-resolution non-intrusive scanner up to TRL 5 able to automatically detect and identify both internal and external concealed commodities being entirely independent of human operator interpretation and training and based on two complementary technologies: ultra-low-dose Multispectral Xray transmission and Infrasonic interrogation.

A novel x-ray detector, in addition to a higher imaging resolution, captures 256 channels of spectroscopic information, allowing a step change in material identification. Crucially, this level of resolution has the potential to enhance the detection of narcotics and explosives concealed in the body—a highly complex problem with currently available equipment.

A second subsystem for detecting externally concealed items based on a novel, intrinsically safe, technology (infrasound near-field acoustic holography) is entirely new to security screening. Low-fq MEM Micro-technology shall also be exploited to provide an automated version of non-contact pat-down.

Both sub-systems will be able to work independently, or together to provide complementary information and improve the detection of externally concealed objects. Automated algorithms for both subsystems and, through data fusion techniques, for the combined system will identify chemical substances, recognise pattern and detect anomalies with100g threshold in any part of the body, including prosthetic elements or plasters.

Acceptance by society will be promoted by communication activities highlighting its non-contact nature, non divest condition and the absence of the requirement for operators to view explicit images through automated detection making MESMERISE intrinsically respectful of dignity and privacy.[1]

The mission statement is as follows:


This EU H2020 funded project’s main objective is to improve convenience and efficiency of the airport detection systems:

Most people are familiar with the inconvenience of having to go through a “hand search or pat down” in airports check points. Apart from being invasive and privacy disruptive, the whole procedure significantly slows down the flow of passengers, which means waiting even longer queues. Additionally, in the case of wave body scanners, the use of sexually explicit images that have to be interpreted by an agent raises some concerns about user’s privacy and dignity.

The main challenge of MESMERISE is to develop a new scanning technology improving the respect for intimacy and privacy rights as well as the efficiency and reliability. In order to achieve this, the project first objective is to develop a high-resolution non-intrusive scanner able to automatically detect and identify both internal and external concealed prohibited or restricted commodities sought by customs.

Mesmerise proposes two complementary technologies to fill the current gaps: ultra-low dose Multispectral X-ray transmission and Infrasonic interrogation. Both systems have the goals of improving privacy, convenience, sensitivity, and reliability posing no risk for users, providing automatic identification or classification and assuring that no human operator needs to watch privacy-breaking images.[2]


MESMERISE Kick Off Meeting

Universidad de Alcalá

Alcalá de Henares, Spain

17 May 2016[3]


Second MESMERISE Meeting

December 2016

Alcalá de Henares, Spain [4]


Third MESMERISE Meeting

23-24 November 2017

Alcalá de Henares, Spain [5]

 The EU MESMERISE project was stood up to detect contraband and other illicit items—including weaponry—under the EU Horizon 2020 Research program. Items of concern placed inside the body or external to it (underneath clothing or within prosthesis devices) that can be detected by means of this new and innovative scanning technology suite include:

• Narcotics

• Firearms

• Electronics

• Micro Cell Phones

• Ceramic and Plastic Blades

• Explosives

• Liquids

• Precious Stones and Rare Metals

The system utilizes X-MESMERISE (Multispectral X-ray Transmission) and Z-MESMERISE (Infrasonic Interrogation) technologies to achieve this detection mission.

The two-day concluding MESMERISE workshop—the fourth in a series of meetings—was attended by thirty-five representatives from seven EU countries—Spain, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Romania, Belarus, and Norway—as well as Turkey and the United States. Simultaneous Spanish to English and English to Spanish translations of the workshop presentations were provided. The first day of the workshop began with a welcome and introduction by Jorge Pérez Serrano—Vicerrector of UAH—and prof. Julia Buján –deputy of the rector for the Institute of Defence & Security of UAH—(Spain); Paolo Salieri—DGHome European Commission (European Union), Daniel Jiménez Durán—Guardia Civil (Spain), Neil Newbury—Assistant Director, Border Force (United Kingdom), and José Luis Pérez Díaz—MERMERISE Project Coordinator (Spain). A special panel presentation on challenges in smuggling detection and security was then provided by Trevor Francis—Home Office (United Kingdom) and Robert J. Bunker—Strategic Studies Institute (SSI), U.S. Army War College (United States), who focused on narcotics smuggling and body cavity bombs (and other internal weaponry) respectively. This was followed by detailed X-MESMERISE: automatic multispectral detection of externally and internally concealed goods and Z-MESMERISE: automatic, harmless, and contactless detection of externally concealed goods presentations provided by José Luis Pérez Díaz followed by partner member discussions. X-MESMERISE and Z-MESMERISE demonstrations for partner members was then conducted.

The second day of the workshop began with a project internal meeting (restricted to partners). This was followed by a MESMERISE presentation for media. Presenters were Trevor Francis, Paolo Salieri, José Luis Pérez Díaz and Daniel Jiménez Durán. Spanish media representatives appearing at the press meeting included those from A punt (Televisión Valenciana), TVE, Telemadrid, Telecinco, Onda Madrid, and Canal Sur TV. The main conclusions (for public distribution) learned from the project for X-MESMERISE are:

• Ceramic knives, liquids, drugs, explosives and metallic parts detectable

• Single cocaine ball detectable

• Multispectral image improves the limit

• There is a margin to reduce X-ray dose (even tuning it to the size of the scanned person) not affecting detection limits

• AI (Artificial Intelligence) Module ready for implementation in operational environment—no human operator is needed, no explicit images of the person are shown

The main conclusions (for public distribution) learned from the project for Z-MESMERISE are:

• Z-MESMERISE in stand-by condition is able to detect externally concealed drugs and explosive simulants and weapons on torso in non-contact condition with a scan time 7-8 s.

• Sound poses no risk by itself or by interaction with the detection items (even unstable explosives)

• Even thick clothes do not affect

• Z-MESMERISE presents a potential to be used for detection of other items and/or items on other parts of the body.

• Potential set of parameters to be successfully explored to increase TRL

• Patent application in progress

Lab demonstrations of X-MESMERISE and Z-MESMERISE and a question and answer session were then provided. A press assessment stemming from these demonstrations written by Daniel J. Ollero, El Mundo was that:


I am the one on that picture. I carry two packets of cocaine (props) in a pocket, three roe of hashish (also props) and a knife (this one real) hidden next to the skin. We are testing the X-Mesmerise, the new Spanish invention that promises to locate any contraband object stuck to the skin or hidden in the body

The last two steps (the knowledge of the effective atomic number and the processing of artificial intelligence) are the really novel parts of this invention since, when they are fully operational, they will preserve the privacy of the passengers as they are images generated by the computer that nobody would see. When it is ready, it will most likely be the most effective existing system that exists, although we could not test them live.[6]*

[*Author’s Note: The system is actually ready to be deployed and personnel operationally trained for real world field and facility use]

For a 1:15 minute video of the MESMERISE lab demonstrations (In Spanish) see:


“Se acabó hacer largas colas en el aeropuerto: este escáner detecta cualquier objeto sospechoso en segundos.” Radio Televisión de Castilla y León. 12 July 2019,

For more information concerning MESMERISE technologies, specifications, and applications, contact

Appendix 1: Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MESMERISE (Multi-Energy High Resolution Modular Scan System for Internal and External Concealed Commodities),

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-10-31

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far:

MESMERISE has progressed according to the work plan developing a new X-ray body scanner for the automatic detection of concealed goods and a first prototype of Z-MESMERISE based on sound reflection for the detection of external concealed goods.

After defining a list of concealed goods to be detected—based on the likelihood and impact associated—preliminary designs were created and approved. Prototypes of X-MESMERISE and local pat-down Z-MESMERISE have been manufactured. Tests will start in the second RP.

Theoretical/computational models for both technologies have been developed for both technologies. The team is developing Automatic recognition algorithms for both techniques.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far):

MESMERISE looks set to exceed the capability of current technologies being used by Customs Administrations in some member states and associated countries.

X-MESMERISE potentially exceeds the capabilities of other X-Ray transmission systems because of sensitivity and the use of an ultra-low dose of ionizing radiation.

Z- MESMERISE provides a non-contact pat-down respectful technology. The absence of explicit images improves privacy while keeping security.

Additionally, both X and Z MESMERISE are intended for a non-divest and non-contact condition, preserving privacy and dignity. This is a clear step forward with respect to a traditional manual pat-down.

Appendix 2: MESMERISE Brochure,


Appendix 3: MESMERISE Radiation Dose Assessment, 26 November 2017: 20 pp.,

Appendix 4: X-MESMERISE and Z-MESMERISE Brochure. 11-12 July 2019 Workshop Handout.



The author of this report served as an external advisor to this three-year project and provided early guidance concerning contraband detection requirements.

1. “Multi-Energy High Resolution Modular Scan System for Internal and External Concealed Commodities” Horizon 2020. CORDIS, European Commission. Fact Sheet. Last Update 23 June 2017,

2. “Mesmerise Mission.” 2019,

3. “Mesmerise Kick-off Meeting.” 16 June 2016,

4. “New Partners Meet Up.” 13 December 2016,

5. “Mesmerise Third Meeting.” 25 November 2017,

6. Daniel J. Ollero, “NARCOTRÁFICO: Así es la máquina española que caza las armas y drogas ocultas en los aeropuertos.” El Mundo. 13 July 2019, English translation—with additional editing—published in “This is the Spanish machine that hunts weapons and hidden drugs in airports.” International News. 12 July 2019,

About the Author(s)

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an Instructor at the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. Dr. Bunker has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at   


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