Heathrow, hit hard by the huge drop in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic, believes the tests have the potential to ‘unlock travel’.
The airport is working with the universities of Oxford and Manchester on three separate advanced tests.
It is hoped that if the 20-second tests prove reliable, a successful test will remove countries from the government’s “red list”.
The government imposed a 14-day quarantine on travelers returning to the UK in June, with some countries with low coronavirus rates being exempted.
But France and Spain have since been removed from that list after outbreaks of infections, with Italy, Greece and Portugal – which were initially left out before being recently added – are all said to be on the verge to also be deleted.
The results of the Heathrow trial will be submitted to Grant Shapps and Matt Hancock to persuade them to replace the quarantine with a comprehensive testing regime that could boost international travel and trade.
At least 30 other countries have already introduced border testing for Covid-19.
Britain has been criticized for supposedly allowing rivals Germany and France to steal the march economically by quickly introducing screening.
Ministers say the tests would not work due to the risk of false negatives.
Heathrow has already built a testing center where passengers would pay £ 150 for a PCR test like those used by the NHS.
A follow-up test five or eight days later would release people from quarantine prematurely if they were negative.
However, the cost and lead time to results – up to 48 hours – could hamper a larger deployment.
One is a throat swab that produces results in half an hour, while a second is a saliva-based test similar to a pregnancy test that comes back in ten minutes.
And the third is a holographic microscope test developed for Ebola, which can produce results in as little as 20 seconds.
Some 250 Heathrow workers took part in the trial, where they passed the tests which are expected to cost as little as £ 30, as well as a PCR test to assess accuracy.
John Holland-Kaye, Managing Director of Heathrow, told the Daily Telegraph: “Testing is the lifeline the UK aviation industry needs to get back on its feet.
“We have implemented some of the most advanced rapid test technologies at Heathrow to see which offers the best solution.
“If we can find a test that is accurate, gets a result in minutes, is cost effective, and gets the green light from the government, we might have the potential to introduce large-scale testing. “