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Canberra Airport is set to become the first in Australia to trial new "contactless" border technology that scans faces instead of passports.

Trials of the new SmartGate technology are expected to begin in Canberra in March next year, ahead of a planned rollout across the rest of Australia.

Ministers Angus Taylor and Peter Dutton check out one of the old SmartGates in the international departure lounge at Canberra Airport. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Canberra Airport was at the forefront of innovation in border security.

"We need to embrace the world's best technology and that's what we are doing here in Canberra.

"The SmartGates will allow, in time, people to walk through them with their passport in the pocket but without having to present it."

Four new SmartGate machines will be trialled at the international arrivals area in Canberra, using biometric facial scans to identify passengers, rather than physical passport checks.

About 100,000 international passengers travel through Canberra Airport every year. SmartGates are already in place in Canberra, although the older machines do not allow contactless travel. More than 100 new SmartGates will be installed at airports across Australia through 2018 and 2019 following the Canberra trial.

The government aims to have 90 per cent of passengers travelling through the new SmartGates by 2020. According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the gates could cut passenger processing time from one minute to as little as 15 seconds. Although travellers would not have to produce their passports as they entered the gates, they would still need them to travel. Superintendent James Copeman from the Australian Border Force said the Canberra trial would be used to sort out any teething issues before the wider SmartGate rollout.

"This is a world first, what we are doing here, " he said. "The opportunity to trial the technology, as far as biometrics and facial recognition go, is a very exciting thing for us. "Fortunately here in Canberra we have a workforce that is very open to the technology."