American Airlines [AAL] in June acquired eight computed tomography (CT)-based screening systems from Analogic [ALOG] for use at airport checkpoints, marking the first sale of the next-generation screening systems for Analogic.
The $6 million acquisition makes American Airlines the launch customer for Analogic’s ConneCT Checkpoint CT system, which is the same technology used in the U.S. and many airports globally to automatically screen checked bags for explosives. The ConneCT system, and two other CT-based systems being offered by competitors, are smaller than the explosive detection systems used for screening checked bags for explosives so they can better fit into checkpoints where travelers are screened before entering the secure area of airports.
For American Airlines, key characteristics of the ConneCT system include the smallest footprint of the three competitors, allowing it to make greater use of real estate, and easy maintenance. The airline is buying eight systems to speed the process of testing them for eventual deployment rather than wait for the procurement process to play out for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which typically buys and installs screening equipment.
The TSA is responsible for certifying the CT-based checkpoint screening systems for use at passenger screening lanes at U.S. airports. Currently, the TSA is field testing screening systems supplied by L3 Technologies [LLL] and Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, whose technologies have been certified in the agency’s testing facility. L3’s ClearScan system is being tested at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and IDSS’ DETECT 1000 at Boston Logan International Airport.
TSA hasn’t certified the ConneCT system yet to begin field testing. TSA has done data collection on the system and is readying the system for testing at its Transportation Security Integration Facility, Mark Laustra, vice president of Global Business Development and Government Relations for Analogic, tells HSR in late June. He expected the TSIF testing to begin in July and if all goes well, the system will be certified in mid-July and potentially be ready for evaluation in an airport later this summer.
TSA currently uses Advanced Technology (AT) X-Ray systems to screen carry-on bags at airport checkpoints. OSI Systems’ [OSIS] Rapiscan Systems division and Smiths Detection supply TSA with the AT X-Ray systems, about 700 of which will be 10 years-old in 2018, which is around the expected end of their life-cycle.
TSA hasn’t spelled out its procurement plans for CT-based systems at the checkpoint but the agency’s former administrator, Peter Neffenger, put the agency on the path to accelerate evaluations and testing of the next-generation systems, which produce higher resolution images for operators to discern potential threats. The higher resolution capability combined with algorithms, also holds the potential to eventually let travelers leave their liquids and larger personal electronic devices inside their carry-on bags.
David Pekoske, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the next TSA administrator, tells a Senate panel during his first confirmation hearing that he supports the agency efforts to test new technologies, adding that he wants to know “what the checkpoint of the future will look like.”
If all goes according to plan and TSA certifies the ConneCT system, American Airlines hopes to test the system in Automated Screening Lanes at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The Automated Screening Lanes at those airports involve evaluations of more advanced systems for passengers to divest their belongings and for TSA to better manage the screening process.
In addition to the U.S., the CT at the checkpoint manufacturers are looking for global sales of their respective systems. This fall Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is expected to trial the various manufacturers’ systems for a potential procurement next year as is Narita Airport in Japan, where the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held.
Regulatory agencies like the TSA and other globally are keen on bringing next-generation technologies to bear in order to enhance security while simultaneously improving the passenger experience. Agencies also want to keep ahead of evolving threats, which recently drove the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to direct airports overseas to strengthen their security measures for all commercial air carriers flying into the U.S.