The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last Friday solicited bids for its next-generation of carry-on baggage scanners that will be used at airport checkpoints with the promise of improving the experience for travelers while enhancing aviation security.

The RFP is for Advanced Technology/Computed Tomography (AT/CT) systems, with AT systems representing the current technology deployed at airport checkpoints and CT systems considered the new generation.

Analogic's ConneCT computed tomography checkpoint baggage scanner. Photo: Analogic
Analogic’s ConneCT computed tomography checkpoint baggage scanner. Photo: Analogic

“Based on previous Department of Homeland Security and TSA efforts, TSA recognizes CT screening technology as the most impactful capability currently available to address the rapidly-evolving threats at airport checkpoints,” TSA says in the statement of work accompanying the RFP.

Five companies have been developing next-generation systems:  Analogic, Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, L3 Technologies [LLL], ScanTech, and Smiths Detection, a business of Britain’s Smiths Group. Four of the companies are developing CT-based systems and ScanTech is developing a hybrid AT/CT system

The CT technology provides three-dimensional images, giving an operator a better view of the contents inside a bag. Computed tomography is the core technology to current checked baggage scanners, which automatically screen for explosive threats packed in luggage that is stored in the cargo hold of an aircraft.

TSA is testing systems supplied by the four CT vendors at airport checkpoints and in some cases, the local federal security directors are allowing travelers to leave their electronic devices, such as laptops and smartphones, inside their carry-on bags. Eventually, TSA would like for passengers to be able to also leave their liquids and gels inside their bags rather than being required to remove them as part of the screening process.

Responses to the RFP are due by Oct. 1. To be eligible for contracts and be placed on the AT/CT Qualified Product List, vendors’ systems have to meet certain requirements. The solicitation indicates TSA will buy up to 300 new systems in its first buy.

TSA has about 2,400 screening lanes at airport checkpoints across the country, each equipped with AT X-ray systems. Whether the agency will eventually buy as many CT systems as it has AT systems is unclear given that the CT systems are expected to have higher throughputs. And combined with new automated technology, called Automated Screening Lanes, that further speed processing through the checkpoint can add additional layers of security, TSA may find it needs fewer of the new scanners.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske last week touted the operational test results so far for the CT systems and said the first contract for 200 CT systems is expected to be awarded in early 2019.