Designing aviation security passenger screening systems using nonlinear control

Adrian J. Lee, Laura A. Mclay, Sheldon Howard Jacobson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The design of aviation security systems has become increasingly important over the past decade. Passenger screening is a critical aspect of aviation security systems that employs trained personnel to operate screening devices that are designed to detect various threat objects. Several security classes can be defined with each class containing a subset of these screening devices, and in which each passenger is assigned to exactly one security class based on their perceived risk level. This paper introduces a real-time sequential binary passenger assignment model as a discretetime difference equation. The stochastic value of the binary passenger assignment is replaced by a deterministic value capturing a fractional class assignment of each passenger. Through a probabilistic analysis, a closed-loop policy is presented to achieve desired security class occupancies for a finite set of passengers anticipated to undergo screening during a given time period, while maximizing the overall system security. The same closed-loop policy is also shown by applying feedback linearization to the fractional passenger assignment model. Closed-loop stability and convergence properties are discussed for a time-variant state feedback design. Simulation results are reported to illustrate sensitivity to parameter variation, and to demonstrate the effectiveness of control theory as an approximation to an otherwise computationally intractable dynamic programming problem. The key contribution is that passenger assignments to security classes can be performed in real time using the methodology introduced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2085-2105
Number of pages21
JournalSIAM Journal on Control and Optimization
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009


  • Aviation security
  • Feedback linearization
  • Nonlinear control
  • Passenger screening
  • Stochastic systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Optimization
  • Applied Mathematics


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