The Transportation Security Administration has deployed 300 next-generation baggage scanners at 142 U.S. airport checkpoints and plans to acquire another 242 of the systems in the current fiscal year, which would get the agency to about 25 percent of its deployment goal for the computed tomography (CT) scanners, the acting head of TSA said on Wednesday.

The CT technology allows operators to virtually rotate an image of a passenger’s carry-on bag and its contents to better check for potential threats. The systems also have automatic detection capabilities to help an operator.

The improved detection means that far fewer bags are being resent through the scanning equipment, thereby speeding passengers along their journeys, and also requires less touching by operators, which enhances their safety.

“CT technology provides superior detection capability, is more convenient for passengers, and may eliminate the requirement to take electronics, liquids, aerosols, and gels out of carry-on bags,” Darby LaJoye, the acting administrator of TSA, told the House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee.

The deployment of the first 300 checkpoint CT systems in mid-April comes about two years after TSA awarded Smiths Detection a contract worth about $97 million for its HI-SCAN 6040 CTiX systems. The initial shakeout testing and deployments were delayed due to a protest. Smiths Detection is a division of Britain’s Smiths Group.

LaJoye said that in fiscal year 2021, “TSA intends to test, procure, and complete deployment planning for approximately 242 additional mid-size CT systems using available funding.”

The currently deployed CT systems at checkpoints are integrated with standard security lanes but in the future, TSA plans to deploy CT systems with different variations of Automated Security Lanes, which feature multiple divestment stations, mechanized conveyors, automated diverters for suspect bags, and automated bin return systems.

In addition to Smiths Detection, Analogic, Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, and Leidos [LDOS] are competing for the checkpoint CT awards. TSA Administrator David Pekoske, who is currently acting as the deputy DHS secretary, has previously said that that agency plans to buy up to 2,400 of the scanners.

In other technology matters, LaJoye also said:

  • With $3 million appropriated by Congress for TSA to expand its counter-unmanned aircraft system testing efforts, the agency has selected Los Angeles International Airport to evaluate technologies to detect, track and identify small UAS operating in and around the nation’s largest airports. TSA is already establishing a counter-UAS testbed at Miami International Airport. LaJoye told the panel that reports and incidents of small UAS operating in and around airports continue to rise. He defined incidents as being when a pilot has to take evasive action due to a UAS sighting.
  • Through mid-April, TSA has deployed 1,053 Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) systems at airport travel document check sites and plans to buy another 1,001 units in FY ’21. The CAT systems automatically verify the authenticity of a traveler’s driver’s license. IDEMIA supplies the CAT systems.
  • TSA is also expanding pilot evaluations of CAT systems integrated with cameras so automatically ensure the person presenting their driver’s license matches the image on the license. He said the FY ’21 procurement will include 120 CAT-Camera units. TSA has evaluated the CAT-C unit at Washington Reagan National Airport and will also use the technology at Miami, Indianapolis International and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airports, he said.