The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in late July outlined its general plans to begin deploying more sophisticated scanning systems to airport checkpoints in the coming months to screen carry-on bags, marking a significant milestone toward improving security and providing opportunities to make life easier for travelers.
The agency said it plans to have up to 40 computed tomography (CT)-based screening carry-on baggage screening systems installed at a number of U.S. airports this year, and 16 more at federal testing facilities. By the end of fiscal year 2019, TSA plans to have more than 145 CT systems deployed at airport checkpoints.
“This is a very aggressive schedule for TSA,” Mark Laustra, vice president of Global Business Development and Government Relations for Analogic, told HSR, adding that he’s pleased with how the agency is moving forward on its CT at the checkpoint plans. Analogic is one of three companies that have deployed CT systems for operational testing and evaluation by TSA at airport checkpoints in the U.S.
TSA plans to replace existing Advanced Technology (AT) X-Ray systems used to screen carry-on bags at airport checkpoints with the CT systems. The AT systems provide two-dimensional images for operators to check out the contents of a bag while the CT systems produce images in three-dimensions that can be rotated to give users a clear picture. The CT systems also hold out the potential to automatically detect explosives and liquids inside bags, which would allow travelers to keep their laptops and liquids they currently package in quart-sized bags inside their carry-on luggage.
The CT technology is also used to automatically screen checked bags for explosives.
“Use of CT technology substantially improves TSA’s threat detection capability at the checkpoint,” David Pekoske, administrator of TSA, said in a statement. “By leveraging strong partnerships with industry, we are able to deploy new technology quickly and see an immediate improvement in security effectiveness.”
TSA said initially it will have 15 CT units deployed at 15 airports with additional airports to follow in the coming months. Last year, TSA began operational testing of CT systems at two airports, with Integrated Defense & Security Solutions (IDSS) and L3 Technologies [LLL] each supplying one of their systems. IDSS now has it’s DETECT 1000 being evaluated at three airports and Analogic in the past week has gone live at three airports with its ConneCT system. L3’s ClearScan system is also being evaluated at three airports.
Smiths Detection, which has also developed a CT system for checkpoint screening, has its system deployed at two airports in the U.S. for operational testing.
This September, TSA is expected to issue a solicitation for the purchase of additional CT systems.
At more than 130 screening lanes inside a number of U.S. airports, TSA is also evaluating Advanced Screening Lanes (ASLs) that are helping to improve passenger flows. The ASLs have multiple divestment stations so that travelers aren’t piling on one another from behind and also feature mechanized rollers to make it easier to feed the AT X-Ray machine with carry-on items. The ASLs also feature a divert system for suspect bags after exiting the X-Ray system so that these items can be re-screened separately without having to run them through the scanner again, saving time for everyone.
This fall, a DETECT 1000 system that is being evaluated by TSA at Logan International Airport in Boston will be integrated with an ASL supplied by Vanderlande.
TSA asked Congress for more than $70 million in FY ’19 for 145 CT systems for checkpoint screening. Senate appropriators agreed to the request and House appropriators increased it by $20 million. The difference will be sorted out in a conference.