Airports International talks to Maria Hedden of Leidos about what to expect from the company in the light of its acquisition of L3Harris Technologies’ security detection and automation business and the challenges presented by COVID-19

All images courtesy of Leidos


MARIA HEDDEN, Head of Security Detection & Automation, Leidos 

“The opportunity to serve as a leader in security detection solutions has allowed me to expand my knowledge in the field while using best practices from past experiences to find the path forward for our customers.”


Leidos’s vision is to solve its customers’ most demanding challenges through the development and application of technology. The company aims to engage, develop and empower its people to foster a culture of creativity and growth.

How has L3Harris Technologies’ security detection and automation portfolio complemented your own? 

Leidos’s acquisition of L3Harris Technologies’ security detection and automation portfolio in May 2020 added airport and critical infrastructure screening products, automated tray return systems and other industrial automation products to our existing security detection portfolio. Combined with our cargo and baggage screening product lines, we can now offer a comprehensive portfolio, with more than 24,000 systems deployed in over 120 countries. We serve customers in the aviation, transportation, government and critical infrastructure markets. 

Leveraging this comprehensive portfolio, our core technical strengths and robust R&D initiatives, Leidos is well-positioned to address emerging and evolving threats through rapid development of innovative solutions for our global customers. 

This acquisition has given Leidos a comprehensive and cohesive security detection platform featuring solutions such as checkpoint CT scanners, people scanners, explosives trace detectors, checked baggage screeners, automated tray return systems (ATRS) and cargo and vehicle scanners. 

We are helping to secure the world’s most critical infrastructure and the people who use it. 

How have you incorporated the L3Harris Technologies systems into the Leidos structure and culture? 

As part of the acquisition, we welcomed 1,200 employees from around the world to the Leidos team. Our mission is to make the world safer, healthier and more efficient, and the entire Security Detection & Automation team shares a deep commitment to providing our customers with a fully-integrated security technology ecosystem to bring this mission to life. 

The work this team does is vital in securing airports, ports, borders and critical infrastructure globally. Together, we are creating solutions to deliver future security systems that are fast, frictionless and fully integrated. 

Leidos’s 38,000 employees help define who we are and what we stand for as a business – adding to our security detection and automation team has strengthened this vision. We have worked to establish a unified approach to our processes and strategies, investing in our employees and their continued growth. I am proud to lead the team making trade and travel safer, healthier and more efficient through fully-integrated global security technologies.

What new regions/markets will you be targeting with this extended portfolio? 

The acquisition expanded our customer base across aviation, ports, borders and critical infrastructure internationally, increasing Leidos’s international security products revenue more than six-fold. The deal brought Leidos products into 75 additional countries. 

With this extended portfolio, we will continue to focus on securing travel and trade – both domestically and internationally. This truly is a global business, and we are committed to delivering fully-integrated security detection solutions around the world. 

Leidos is a leader in security detection and automation, delivering a comprehensive suite of fully-automated and integrated security detection solutions to customers spanning aviation, ports and borders and critical infrastructure markets. This portfolio, combined with Leidos’s strengths in technology and R&D, gives us the agility to address emerging and evolving threats across markets and develop innovative solutions to support our customers’ missions.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your offering? 

Our Security Detection & Automation operation is working to transform security checkpoints to fast, frictionless and fully-integrated security systems, to keep both security agents and travellers safe and healthy – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The three elements of ‘fast, frictionless, and fully-integrated’ have proven critical this year:


• Fast – Our security detection technologies enable rapid screening of people, cargo and vehicles with realtime threat detection, reducing the likelihood of queues or unnecessary groups of travellers.

• Frictionless – Our automated, non-intrusive detection capabilities deliver the highest level of threat detection while maintaining a seamless screening experience so that we can limit the number of pat-downs and hightouch interactions.

• Fully-integrated – Our portfolio combines leading screening technologies, artificial intelligence/machine learning capabilities, and advanced biometric tools to deliver holistic security detection solutions that make travel safer, healthier, and more efficient. 

As our world continues to face the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, our operation will continue to provide products and solutions that will help travellers adapt. We will remain focused on our vision for the airport of the future, along with technology and systems that will provide safety and security to travellers around the world.

What new requirements and priorities have your clients had in 2020? 

In light of the global pandemic, customers’ requirements and priorities have obviously evolved. We have seen increased interest in solutions that address high-touch areas such as the airport checkpoint and, in response, we have developed innovative systems to protect and clean surfaces at security checkpoints. We are also deploying the use of advanced artificial intelligence algorithms in our people and baggage scanners to limit the number of pat-downs required. Our security detection team is delivering solutions that offer the highest levels of convenience and health standards without sacrificing safety and security.

What new products are you bringing to market as a direct result of ‘the new normal’? 

Leidos is currently developing several products to improve airport health and security. One example is a new ultraviolet light sanitisation unit, which would seamlessly integrate into existing automatic tray return systems to clean security trays between each use. The ultraviolet light unit will be concealed within the tray return system, eliminating any exposure of passengers or staff to UV-C rays. It is designed to operate automatically, maintaining current checkpoint operations and passenger throughput. 

In addition, Leidos is working with a manufacturer of security trays to incorporate Biomaster silver ion antimicrobial technology that will provide protection against unwanted microorganisms. This technology has been shown to be effective against a broad spectrum of microbes and prevents the reproduction of certain types of bacteria by 99.99%.

What can we expect from Leidos in 2021? 

Will you be focusing on specific areas of your product portfolio? As we continue working to safeguard people and commerce, our security detection and automation operations are evolving and adapting. We are committed to creating a checkpoint of the future, which goes back to our [ethos of] fast, frictionless and fully-integrated solutions. In addition, we will continue to focus on security technology systems for aviation, ports and borders and critical infrastructure customers globally, taking into consideration new threats and factors that arise and developing innovations to address this ever-changing market. This past year, we have had substantial wins in our Security Detection & Automation operation. For example, Leidos was awarded a $379m contract by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations and Cargo Conveyance Security to provide a non-intrusive inspection system for highenergy rail infrastructure. This screening helps CBP effectively and efficiently detect and prevent banned people, contraband, unreported currency, guns, ammunition and other illegal merchandise from being smuggled into the country. I am proud we are able to support the important missions of the CBP through our fast, frictionless and fully-integrated screening technology, and we look forward to continuing this mission. 

As we enter 2021, our Security Detection & Automation operation will continue delivering critical support to secure ports and borders, promoting airport security, and assisting other customers with their security detection and automation needs.