An Israeli company is training mice to be tiny, rodent bomb detectors.
Much like dogs, mice have a keen sense of smell and can be trained to perform discrete activities and respond to stimuli. However, mice are not generally thought of to be trained to perform detection tasks because many think of the rodents as pests and dirty.
The team at X-Test, an affiliate of the Tamar Group, however, says that the mice actually have several advantages over larger canine detectors typically seen in airports and police units today.
“They’re as good as dogs as far as their ability to smell, but they’re smaller and easier to train,” Yuval Amsterdam of X-Test said in a recent interview with The Independent. “They’re cheap, and you don’t have to take them for a walk. Once they are trained, they become bio-sensors.”
The plan, which was developed by a company founded by former IDF officers and aimed to prevent terrorist attacks, is to put the mice in cages and walk them around the airport with their handlers.
It is hoped the mice will be far less noticeable than detector dogs easily spotted in a crowd. It is also hoped that they will alert security to possible threats by reacting to the odor of explosives on clothes or in bags.
Sensors monitoring the mice will also make sure that even small changes in the mice’s behavior and heart rate will be noticed, making sure no threat goes unchecked.
While the mice have not been used in airports yet, they could ultimately be trained not only to detect explosives, but all sorts of contraband including food stuffs, drugs and even ivory, helping to make airports safer in a discrete and cost-effective way.