POWERFUL new body scanners, which will be used to check passengers at UK airports, are being developed in Oxfordshire.

The machines use state-of-the-art technology to reveal objects hidden under clothing such as explosives, weapons, or drugs.

Didcot-based ThruVision Systems has developed devices that can scan people from a distance or close-up.

The company, in Milton Park, claimed the scanners could have prevented the Christmas Day bomber – who hid explosives in his underpants and attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound flight – from boarding the plane.

Product and marketing manager David Haskett said: “After September 11, it was obvious this technology needed to be developed to cope with more innovative ways terrorists were using to cause destruction.

“Terrorists were exploiting a limitation in airport scanners, which meant they could only detect metal. Our scanners can pick up ceramics, liquids, gels and plastics.”

ThruVision’s T8000 scanner, which costs about £100,000, takes 20 seconds to make a full scan .

Manchester airport caused controversy in October when it piloted full body scanners which revealed intimate details of those it was scanning.

Mr Haskett said ThruVision’s technology would not create that problem.

He said: “We have tried to develop our technology with human rights being very important, so our scanners do not invade your privacy by capturing intimate details or subjecting you to radiation.

“In Manchester people were worried about the scanning of children, but we have overcome that.”

Responding to the attempted Christmas Day bombing, Gordon Brown last month said body scanners were to be introduced at airports across the country.

ThruVision is in talks with a UK airport and a major European airport. The company has also had international discussions with a view to installing the scanners at train stations, sports arenas and banks.

It has also developed a machine which can scan people at a distance of 15 metres.

In a demonstration given to the Oxford Mail, Mr Haskett was detected by the scanner as he attempted to conceal a fake stick of dynamite and plastic explosives.

He said: “As a plane is a pressurised atmosphere, all it takes is a small bomb to cause a lot of destruction. Our scanners are narrowing the window of opportunity for the terrorists.”

The company was set up in 2004 as an off-shoot of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory following a project with the Space Agency to incorporate space technology into practical use.