L3 Technologies [LLL] in late May opened a new center in the Washington, D.C., area filled with its aviation security checkpoint technologies to demonstrate, showcase and test current and future capabilities and operational concepts for its domestic and international customers.
The intent of the Passenger Screening Experience Center is to “paint the vision for the future of aviation security,” Bill McGann, chief technology officer for L3’s Massachusetts-based Security and Detection Systems business, told HSR in a May 30 telephone interview. “Obviously, it represents L3’s vision but we also think objectively it represents the vision of where the market is going.”
The 6,000 square-foot center is located near Ronald Reagan National Airport in Northern Virginia, which is where the Transportation Security Administration houses a key testing facility, the Transportation Security Integration Facility. McGann said L3’s facility is in an area where various stakeholders in the domestic and international aviation security community frequently visit a “functioning location where checkpoint technologies are in play and operating in a seamless and integrated fashion and have them be constructed in such a way that it is operational, flexible and a learning and experience center for designing a future state.”
Airports and airlines eventually would like to see a frictionless, or at least near-frictionless, security experience at passenger checkpoints so that travelers can move more quickly and comfortably through the process while at the same time TSA is able to enhance security. Fulfilling that vision is still years away, but McGann said L3 is developing technologies to get there and the Passenger Screening Experience Center will aid in this effort.
Screening systems that L3 has installed in its center include its ClearScan computed tomography (CT) carry-on baggage scanner, an automated screening lane called Mach-SmartLane that features mechanized rollers, multiple divestment stations and an automated tray return system, the ProVision 2 body scanner used at U.S. and international airports, the B220 HI explosives trace detector (ETD), a multi-view X-ray baggage scanner called ACX 6.4, and Mach-SEMS, the company’s integrated security management platform to help improve the security and efficiency of screening operations.
L3 is competing to supply the ClearScan system to TSA as the next-generation of checkpoint baggage scanners. Smiths Detection, part of Britain’s Smiths Group, won the first round for the checkpoint CT systems, but the award is under protest by L3. The CT checkpoint scanners provide a 3-dimensional image of a bag’s contents to an operator, who can also virtually rotate the image on a display screen to better observe the contents.
The CT systems will also allow travelers to leave their electronic devices inside their bags and eventually TSA expects the technology will also allow liquids to remain inside bags as well. Transitioning to the CT systems is expected to make the body scanning component of the screening process the chokepoint at the checkpoint.
L3 Plans to Introduce New Techs
McGann said L3 in 2020 will launch a new body screening system, what TSA calls Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), that will be easier for travelers to use and offer a 50 percent reduction in false alarms versus the current ProVision AIT, which will boost throughput. The new AIT system is in the advanced technology demonstration phase and includes a technology roadmap to “walk-through” system that is “truly frictionless,” he said.
The ProVision system requires individuals to step into a machine that that is an upright cylinder and put their hands above their heads for optimal screening. TSA is evaluating an AIT system supplied by Germany’s Rohde & Schwarz that allows travelers to keep their arms down and out slightly to the side.
L3 is also integrating ETD technology into the tunnel of its CT system, which will further enhance security and increase efficiency. Currently, if operators spot something suspicious inside a bag, they have it pulled aside by another Transportation Security Officer for closer inspection, which may include manual collection of trace particles from the bag using a swab for analysis by a desktop ETD system at the checkpoint.
With ETD and CT capabilities integrated, security operators have the luxury of all bags being screened with both technologies and the “power of the fusion of that data is something that we, TSA and other regulators are very interested in,” McGann said. L3 has built some prototypes of this integrated capability, he said.
Next year, L3’s new AIT capability will be showcased at the Advanced Passenger Experience Screening Center and ultimately so will the frictionless body scanning capability and the integrated ETD and X-ray technology, he said.