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AI Case Study

Dutch police plan to use machine learning to detect illegal substances sent in the mail based on X-rays

The Dutch police are planning to implement an AI system which analyses X-ray scans to detect illegal substances, such as drugs, contained in letters and parcels without opening them. The pilot will begin in January 2019.


Public And Social Sector


Project Overview

"Starting in January 2019, Dutch police, DITTS, and postal and e-commerce service PostNL will join forces to test an AI-powered X-ray scanner.

This gigantic machine runs deep learning software that becomes better at detecting objects over time. “The system can already catch weapons and explosives,” says Kuijpers [Jean-Paul Kuijpers who works with DITTS] “During this three-month pilot, we will be teaching it to identify synthetic drugs.” Because ecstasy pills come in many different shapes, the algorithm will have to look for different identifiable features such as weight and density."

Reported Results

"Kuijpers believes the machine will be effective in detecting illegal goods, especially after some months of “training” the algorithm. The real challenge lies in not slowing down the mail sorting process, he says."


Details undisclosed





"In the Netherlands, about 200 million letters and packages are mailed each year. A police team dedicated to investigating illegal goods in the mail carries out only one routine check-up, in one mail sorting center, every week. Another challenge to police detection is posed by Dutch law. The Netherlands, like many European countries, has 'secrecy of correspondence,' which prohibits governmental organizations from opening sealed letters. So once this police team stumbles upon something suspicious, they need consent from a specially appointed district attorney to open these postal items."



X-ray scans

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